Llan - update May13 (formerly The Gate Faith Community)

Thursday, 30 May, 2013

Llan is an embryonic, new monastic community, meeting at The Gate in Cardiff. James Karran tells how its identity has been developing.

Palm Sunday together was our very first 'not-a-church' meeting. However, not-a-church meeting is a little bit of a mouthful, so instead we called it a 'community life' meeting.

Eight of us were present for this historic occasion, each of us with our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, moods, baggage and slightly different understandings of what on earth we were doing there. The first item on the agenda was to find a name for ourselves.

After we finally decided that the best way to decide on it was to have a vote, we came out very strongly in favour of Llan. When Christianity first came to Wales, the monastic pioneers would establish a llan – literally meaning 'enclosure' – at strategic locations, within which they would begin to build a base for mission, worship and prayer. This seemed to sum up exactly what we felt God calling us to be.

Llan - groupSo after seven months of meeting together, we had chosen a name. There was an almost palpable feeling of 'connection' in the room. It was as if the act of deciding on a name - which came from the collective group as opposed to being imposed by any one individual - was a kind of mortar that helped cement us together a bit more. We took one more step down the road of ownership, of community, of knowing who we are. 

The rest of the meeting included subjects ranging from thinking about our diary to asking what each of us individually wants from Llan and how we might go about getting it.

Since we started our community at The Gate in September 2012, I thought it would be a good idea to try and establish a rhythm of prayer, as it seemed like the kind of thing a monk would do. So I invited anyone who was up for it to meet at The Gate at 8.15am to pray a morning office. Initially it was just me and one other from the community who attended, and now... it's still just me and one other.

Llan - cross and bibleMany folk might see the routine of having to come to the same place every day to say the same prayers as just another religious rule that doesn't mean anything but that is not my experience. Coming to this same place at this same time, we go through the ritual of:

  • setting up our (very) makeshift chapel - complete with print of Rembrandt's Return Of The Prodigal Son, stone Celtic cross and tea light;
  • spending moments in silence to bring to mind God's love that is 'new every morning';
  • saying the same words from Psalms and other ancient sources;
  • holding our loved ones before God.

This all becomes something more than the sum of its parts. The light begins to represent God's presence with you in that place, the words begin to seep into your inner being and set your soul on fire with their truth, the picture begins to speak of God's mercy in a language that communicates directly with your spirit. That place, that time, that rhythm... it has become a thin place for me, a place where I meet with God.

I really, really hope that more people will come to see the mystery and power in rhythms and practises like this because they're not dead, they're very much alive.

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