The community is making plans: plans for the future, and especially for the next year. All sorts of things are afoot.
This is, of course, a result of the sort of transition we are making. Scott is being installed as the new Prior on the 12th of June, and I will be gone on the 15th so, as I have explained in the past few postings, we are doing a transition process in the days leading up to the new Prior's installation instead of afterwards.
So plans, as I say, are being made. Important space is being given to thinking about the integrity of the community's life. There has been a very large increase in the number of people using the Guesthouse in the past couple of years, and especially in this last year. We've been experiencing these increases for some time now, and periodically we need to stop and make sure that the tail isn't wagging the dog.
Of course, we earn our living by running the Guesthouse, and it's important that it thrive. It's also important that we take a look periodically and make sure that we have the time and the silence necessary for our lives as monks, for prayer, for lectio, for reflection. Scott has asked the community to plan more retreat time into the schedule of the next year, and this is a really good beginning. More than anything, we need to have these reflections on a regular basis, just to make sure that we're still in balance.
And to move to the other side of the balance, James, who will be the new Guesthouse Director, has asked for more of the community to be directly involved in the hospitality side of the ministry - welcoming guests, helping them find their place and get settled, orienting them and seeing that they are comfortable and know how to negotiate this mildly complex set of buildings. We hope this will increase the hospitality of our welcome.
We're also considering a new initiative in ministry. We are investigating the possibility of running an intern program for college students that would be based on ministry in the local area and spiritual formation for the interns.
This would be a direct outflow of the living of our monastic life; sharing with young people what it's like to live a life of prayer, and leading them into the practices necessary to sustain such a life. We think this would be a gift to the church, and a very rewarding ministry for us. Enough college age men and women come here now for us to know that this is an attractive place for young adults. Having a ministry directly focused on them is an obvious next step.
This will mean some construction, of course, and some fund-raising. If you've seen our newsletter, the Mundi Medicina, you'll know that we have a space that could fairly easily be made into a suite of 4 bedrooms with a bathroom and a common room, so that the interns could have their own space, which would greatly assist in their community building.
So the next year will be for planning, for fund raising and for various practical considerations. If things go as we hope, we think we could be ready to launch this ministry a year from this fall.
We also considering how we can better provide for the elderly members of our community. Since the earliest days in West Park, we have regularly had to place elderly brothers who are in need of care in nursing homes in the area. This is far from optimal and we don't like it any more than any family does, but it is sometimes necessary. But we think that the time that our brothers spend in such care might be lessened, or in some cases even eliminated by some remodeling of our space, so that we could provide a monastic version of Assisted Living.
We have been very lucky over the years that such a large proportion of our community has had vigorous health into old age, and that we have had to make relatively little use of nursing homes. But this is something that we can't continue to count on, especially as modern medicine is prolonging life so markedly. So Scott has been consulting with our architect about the renovation of some space in our monastery building, and we will talk with the wider community about this at Chapter, and see how we all feel about it after we have talked it over.
So we are moving forward. I've expressed to the community how excited I am about what the transition is revealing, and how much I am going to miss being part of the process. But I know that a period of time away will be good for me and most helpful for the developing of this next era in the community's life. I'll just have to look forward to my return and to seeing how things have worked out, and where I fit into the life that is yet to be revealed.
PS - as part of the transition, this blog will be renamed "Bede's Blog." It will continue to be featured on our web site's "Community Meditations" page. Come visit me there!