Friday, June 20, 2008

Marks of Celtic Christianity...

There are two key marks to be noted of Celtic Christianity in the 5th and really through 9th century. Those two marks are quite simply hospitality and belonging. These were both integral parts of evangelism for the monastic communities (Celtic churches). Not only were the two connected to evangelism, but they were connected to each other. The communities were open to any and everyone. In fact, teams from the monastic community went into the surrounding tribes (towns) and invited people to come visit. If someone came to visit he or she was welcomed in and given the highest priority. By highest priority I mean, they could have food and lodging free of charge and they were literally welcomed by every person, even the bishop of the community. If the bishop was fasting he would even break his fast to share a meal with the visitor.

The entire community was structured in such a way that every person had multiple roles in daily life. Each person worked according to his or her gifts and abilities. Above that each person had a spiritual guide who was a peer that could share in confession and life’s journey. Each person was also given a specific place that they could spend daily time in solitude and contemplative prayer. Along with that each person was a part of a group that met regularly (at least weekly) to study scripture together. Then, with all of that, the people all came together for regular worship.

The hospitality and belonging extended into the structure of the community. The visitors would be given a spiritual guide, a place for solitude, and an open invitation to the happenings of the community. The basic premise of this evangelism extends beyond the boundaries of time and meets an innate need that each of us has and that’s to be a part of something, a community, to belong. Through belonging the visitors then had the opportunity to come to faith in a community of believers. My good friend Jeremy Summers has written quite well on the subject of belonging before believing.

How does this ancient way of doing church compare to your experience?

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