At a critical point in Western history, just as the old order that had been the Roman empire was breathing its last tired breath, Benedict of Nursia surfaced with a vision for community. And he did it almost by accident. Disillusioned with the world of academia in what was looking to be an increasingly decaying society, Benedict dropped out of school and left town. He went into the wilderness, found himself a quiet cave, and prepared to spend a life simply listening in prayerful silence for the voice of God.
The thing is, they wouldn’t leave him alone. First by the ones and twos, and eventually by the hundreds, other young men went out to that wilderness place to sit with Benedict and to seek God in the silence. So many, in fact, that he had to give some structure to their common life, eventually producing the “Rule of St Benedict” to govern community life in a rhythm of prayer, work, hospitality, learning, feasting and fasting. Balance. Boundaries. Safety. Accountability. The communities that continued to be formed around this Rule long after Benedict’s death kept alive a model—an alternative model—for human life in very, very difficult times. He seems to us a good mentor for our own times.
And the table? Our life is formed around the communion table, but also nurtured over various tables of hospitality and conversation. Most obviously there is the coffee table at the back of our worship space, but there are also all those tables in cafes and pubs and restaurants and homes where community is built, faith shared, and questions asked.