A perspective on Manningham Uniting Churches Vision and Values:
The Vision of Manningham UC is:
Inspired by God
and seeking to emulate the life of Jesus
we will identify and reflect God’s love
by creating, participating in and walking with communities locally, nationally and globally.
And the core values are:
Christ-centred, Relational, Risk Taking and Hospitable
Years ago Alastair and I visited Skellig Michael on the most SW coast of Ireland, site of a monastic settlement dating back to the 6th Century. The island was home to the monks of St Fionan, whose lives of utter simplicity were lived out as mystics on this bare rock jutting out of the wild Atlantic Ocean, their only companions, puffins, grey seals and gannets. Stone, beehive-shaped huts for homes, the monks’ days were spent in prayer, in study and in attending their vegetable gardens. In today’s world such deprivations are extreme; fierce winds, bodies chilled to the bone, scarcity of food and the harshness of living conditions hold lack lustre appeal. But appeal was there for these monks, who hungered, searched, listened and lived in community, in the precinct of raw nature, in the austerity of solitude and in the ability to be present to the Word and Gift of life in all certainties and vulnerabilities.
As Fr Richard Rohr puts it, “People who know God well – mystics, hermits, those who risk everything to find God – always meet a lover, not a dictator.” The monks of St Fionan did risk everything and they did find God in the most bitter and blithesome of places.Today Skellig Michael is a place of pilgrimage and historical interest as a World Heritage Site.
Skipping to the 17th Century to a Carmelite friar, Brother Lawrence, [Frere Laurent] is another mystic whose story is told in ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’. For Brother Lawrence, being open and receptive to God’s presence in daily life was of the greatest importance. It was in this ‘awareness’ and ‘mindfulness’ that the truths of Jesus’ teachings and healings could be caught and grounded. For him, this openness laid bare the blessings of God’s unbounded and gracious love. Brother Lawrence, was not trying to emulate Jesus, this was inconceivable; but living in the practice of the presence of God, was immanently possible. And it was a quest for him that was all-consuming.
The stance of these mystics resonates with me for it holds a vision and value that seeks ‘sacred presence’ and Mystery in the beauty of nature, of music, in solitude and in community; in moments of openness and awareness in all of life – in all its ambiguities. This is the journey of faith that celebrates new life in Christ through relationships, through trust and through the vulnerability of self-giving.