There are many Christian communities where lay people come and spend time living in community with others for periods of time. This article considers three of these.
The Pilsdon Community
The Pilsdon Community aims to “provide an environment where people can rebuild their lives after experiencing a crisis, whether sudden or progressive”. It has been working since 1958 to offer refuge to people in crisis, those working through depression, alcoholism, addiction, divorce or bereavement. The community welcomes those who want to spend time reflecting on life before making a decision for a change in direction and people come from a wide range of different backgrounds and situations.
The community is founded on friendship, hospitality and traditional Christian charity. Everyone who stays at Pilsdon be they guest, visitor, wayfarer, volunteer or community member participates fully in the life of the Community.
Pilsdon is an Anglican foundation but the community is ecumenical. There are now two Pilsden communities. The original is in Dorset (www.pilsdon.org.uk) and a second community is established at West Malling (www.pilsdonatmalling.org.uk).
The communities seek to be self-sufficient. At West Malling there is an extensive vegetable garden with livestock and greenhouses. Visitors are welcome to joint the community for prayer. Volunteers may be residential or non-residential. Residential volunteers stay for six months helping with the community life, the animals, gardens and other aspects of community living.
The community of Pilsden describe what their life offers in this way:
– You will be living in a safe place away from pressures of daily living
– You will be living in a ‘dry’ and drug-free house
– You will have ‘thinking’ time and opportunities to ‘reconnect’ with family if this is your aim
– The environment provides an opportunity to become more aware of the land and the seasons and to experience a real sense of peace
Pilsdon provides a rhythm to life with communal, home-cooked meals
– A pattern of work where you can use your skills or learn new ones
– An opportunity to join in daily worship or simply be aware that it is happening
– Times to relax and have fun using or acquiring artistic talent
– Opportunities to take part in sport, join in card and board games, or sit chatting
The Iona Community
“The Iona Community is a dispersed Christian ecumenical community working for peace and social justice, rebuilding of community and the renewal of worship.”
The Iona Community includes members, associates, volunteers and friends who share in different ways an experience of the liberating power of Jesus Christ and a commitment to the personal and social transformation that come from the Gospel values.
There is a common rule which include daily prayer and Bible reading, mutual sharing, regular meeting time and action and reflection for justice, peace and the integrity of creation. Local groups meet throughout the year and all connected to the community work on themes related to justice, peace and creation. There is strong opposition to nuclear weapons, campaigns against the arms trade and for eco-justice. The community is anti-racist and works against poverty. It is concerned with issues of human sexuality and ecumenism.
The community has island centres and a mainland base in Glasgow. There are opportunities to come and stay and work with the community and the community provides a rich range of worship resources centred around the themes of their work.
The Corrymeela Community
The Corrymeela Community expressed it aims as follows. It seeks to:
“Be a Christian community of reconciliation following the way of the gospel.
Be in positive relationship with people regardless of class, religious sopinion or political conviction.
Create safe spaces where people of diverse backgrounds can come and meet each other, where there is an atmosphere of trust and acceptance and where differences can be acknowledged, explored and accepted. Work to realise a society whose priorities are justice, mutual respect, the participation of all, concern for the vulnerable and the stranger, stewardship of resources, and care for creation.”
Corrymeela has been working for 41 years and operates programmes around family, community interfaith, youth, schools, faith and life. The community operates two residential centres (Ballycastle and Knocklayd) and an administration centre at Corrymeela House, Belfast. The community articulates values of welcome, hospitality and ‘safe-space’. The community works to develop dialogue and a sense of an inclusive community. A well as a rich range of programmes, there are many opportunities for volunteering.