Rule of Life
‘A Rule of Life is simply a handbook to make the radical demands of the gospel a practical reality in daily life’ St Benedict
A Rule of Life is foundational to a community’s life. It is the touchstone for everything, and ultimately is a tool of discipleship that orientates us to Christ, and the mission of God. It is not about legalism or restrictions; it is a collection of values to which a community aspires to embody individually, and together, and offer to the world. Each community has its own charism and calling from God, a Rule of Life is the naming of this.
A Rule of Life is about shaping the way we live, and the decisions we make, individually as Companions, and as a mission order. A Rule of Life points us to the heart of God, where we find identity, purpose and perspective; it supports, guides and provokes us in the world. A Rule of Life is a way for living, which fosters companionship, encourages discipleship, and enables mission.
Inspired by St Aidan, of whom Bede wrote, ‘ …. and whatever people Aidan met on his walks, whether high or low, he stopped and spoke to them. If they were heathen, he urged them to be baptised; and if they were Christians, he strengthened their faith, and inspired them by word and deed to live a good life and to be generous to others.’ The Companions of Aidan gather around the three words Generous, Engaged and Open as a Rule of Life. These words not only say something of the inspirational Aidan, they also say something of how we understand the nature of God, and how we want to be a reflection of this.
The Diocese of Newcastle has used the words Generous, Engaged and Open for some time. By gathering around these words as our Rule of Life we affirm our mission order as being an expression of the Church of England in this diocese, of which our purpose, life, and work is part, and we also seek to help the diocese live more deeply into these words for itself as a ‘values led’ church in its mission and ministry.
A Rule of life is a spiritual declaration that says this is who we are,this is what God has called us to be,this is what God has put on our heart.’Northumbria Community
Living a Rule of Life
The important thing to remember is that a Rule of Life is to be lived and explored by each person for themselves in their own contexts as well as by the companions as a whole. The way that one person expresses the Rule of Life in the place where they live might look quite different to the way someone else expresses it in theirs. For example the call to be generous may be to develop a deanery wide food bank initiative, for someone else it may be to pluck up the courage to invite a lonely neighbour in for a cup of coffee. Each is an equally valid expression of the Rule of Life.
Whoever we are, and whatever our gifts and experience, a Rule of Life should encourage and provoke us to expand our boundaries in love, and grow further into the people that god has called us to be. In committing ourselves to a Rule of Life we are taking responsibility for our own personal inner journey with God, and acknowledging that no one else can do this for us. At the same time we give thanks for Companions for the journey.
In embracing a common Rule of Life there is recognition of a ‘level playing field’, where all members of the community are understood to be able to contribute and participate equally. This means that there can be no division, or difference in status, between ‘ordained’ and ‘lay’, and that the mission order should compliment, rather than emulate, a parish model of church. Indeed, the Companions of St Aidan might be best understood as a ‘lay’ community, of which some members may also be ‘ordained’. This, no doubt, will take some working through, particularly in terms of leadership, but is essential if the Companions of St Aidan is to be a different approach to the people of God sharing in the mission of God. As a mission order network it is also important that each member of the community is encouraged to belong to a local parish church as well as being a Companion of St Aidan.
‘A Rule of Life has more to do with a spiritual vision of community life, with roots continually to be rediscovered, than with a legislation document Taize Community
Generous, Engaged, Open
• To embrace simplicity as a way of being, and to release the gifts and resources that God has given to us for the purposes of his Kingdom.
• To welcome the stranger as we would wish to be welcomed, and as we would welcome Christ himself.
• To share with others the good news of Jesus Christ, and to allow ourselves to receive it more fully in our own lives.
• To listen deeply to God and to others, in order to better understand the mission of God and his call upon us to be part of that mission in our own lives and contexts.
• To give time to nurturing our relationship with God through a rhythm of prayer, retreat and pilgrimage.
• To live respectfully with others in community, our homes, neighbourhoods and places of work, and bless the signs of God in those people and places.
• To grapple honestly and humbly with the challenges and questions of society, in our own lives, and in the lives of others, that God’s love may be encountered through us.
• To lighten the burden by joining in with the work of other Companions in order to further the mission of God in our diocese.
• To be real in the world and in the Church, by modelling an undefended life that shows God’s work in us, as a witness to his transforming love.
• To remove religious obstacles and barriers that hinders the journey to Christ of the broken and the seeker.
• To be open to the work of the Holy Spirit in our own lives, and in the lives of others; trusting that the love and provision of God is much greater than the brokenness and limitations of our own lives, and than the challenges of the world.
• To share our experience and learning with other Companions, and to be open to learning from others.
• To embrace the diversity of Christian traditions beyond our own, and to being open to each one showing us something more of God.
Through workshops, and various conversations, the following values were identified as important: simplicity, accessibility, authenticity, integrity, listening deeply, living respectfully, releasing, vulnerability. These have been woven into the Rule of Life: ‘Generous, Engaged, Open’ to give it some shape and substance. It is anticipated that these values will change and develop as the Companions of St Aidan forms and grows – but ‘Generous, Engaged, Open’ will remain constant.
Loving God, as we remember the life of St Aidan whose life demonstrates to us a rhythm of prayer and outreach,we pray that our lives may be generous in our time spent with you and others, engaged with you and the work you have for us and open to your will in all things. Amen