Dear St Cuthbert’s family,
During this lockdown, I think we’re all learning something about the importance of daily rhythms. It’s interesting to note, for example, how many people in the church and across the country are tuning in to Joe Wicks – ‘the nation’s PE teacher’ – in the morning, as part of their new daily rhythm. Those with expertise in mental health and wellbeing have long known that an essential part of wellbeing is living in healthy rhythms, rather than in overbusyness or in chaos.
1. Rule of Life
The Christian tradition has known this for centuries. The idea of a ‘Rule of Life’ might be new to some of us, but it has deep roots in the history of the Church. (Don’t be put off by the word ‘Rule’ – this is ‘Rule’ singular, not ‘rules’!) It’s goal is for us to know more fully the peace, love and joy of God, and to share this with others.
Three illustrations for what a Rule of Life seeks to do. Firstly, one root-meaning for the word ‘Rule’ is that of a ‘signpost’ which has a purpose of pointing away from itself so as to inform the traveller that they are going in the right direction on their journey. A second is that of ‘a banister railing’ which is something that gives support as you move forward, climbing or descending on your journey. And a third is that of a ‘trellis’. A trellis is a support structure that enables plants such as a grapevine to get off the ground, grow upward, and become fruitful.
So, a Rule of Life points us in the right way, it supports us on the journey, and it gives support so that we can grow the right way and be fruitful. It takes seriously the sense that we live best in healthy rhythms, rather than in overbusyness or in chaos. It positions us to receive the love of God and to give it away to others, and, in the words of the hymn we sang together yesterday morning, to ‘let our ordered lives confess the beauty of thy peace’.
There are many different ways of structuring a Rule of Life, and I suggest that we begin with that used by Peter Scarazzo and his vision of Emotionally Healthy Discipleship. He suggests four areas of focus, which we will explore on Mondays over the next few weeks:
A Rule of Life is a very individual thing. Everyone’s Rule of Life will be specific to them, and dependent, for example, on their age, stage of life, personality, and experience as a Christian. It’s for each of us to seek God for our own Rule of Life, and to benefit from the support of others around us for input and accountability. We might write it down, draw it, paint it, do it digitally or on paper! It just needs to reflect us and who we are seeking to be in relationship with God and others.
There are two common temptations when it comes to developing a Rule of Life:
- Doing nothing – feeling paralysed and thinking ‘I could never do this!’
- Doing everything – trying to do too much and burning out quickly.
The key, in all four areas, is to start small, from where we already are, and then to build over time from there.
Be realistic. Be intentional. Be flexible.
Reflecting specifically on the first area of a Rule of Life, Prayer, it seems to me that a daily rhythm of prayer is vital for each of us. Everything in loving God and loving others builds from this foundation.
I’d suggest trying to carve out perhaps 3? intentional ‘touching points’ with God throughout the day. These need not be long when we start out. As the former Bishop of Lancaster used to say, “A little, a lot, is better than a lot, a little”. To this end, I’ve taken some material that the Church of England has sent out and put together ‘A Simple Rhythm of Daily Prayer’ for St Cuthbert’s (see below). Morning and Night Prayer could take as little as ten minutes, Midday Prayer, as little as five. A longer practice can be developed from there (our Facebook Live prayer expands on this framework), but we’re better starting small and praying regularly.
St Cuthbert’s Simple Rhythm of Daily Prayer.pdf
St Cuthbert’s Simple Rhythm of Daily Prayer [booklet].pdf
Other popular, digital, ways to structure prayer include:
Our individual Rules of Life around Prayer might say something about:
- The number of ‘touching points’ we seek to have with God each day
- The time we seek to spend in Silence during the day
- The plan we have to read the Bible
- The way we look back over our day, at its end (known as The Examen), and reflect on where we’ve met, or missed, God in it. (See ‘A Simple Rhythm…’ Night Prayer for more information on this.)
It feels as though this lockdown might be a deep gift to us, in causing us to reflect on the ways in which we live our lives.
I’d encourage everyone at St Cuthbert’s to think this week about Prayer and the patterns of prayer that we would each seek to live within. Ask God for his guidance. Chat it through with those around us. Put it down on paper or digitally. Write it or draw it.
All of this is held within the grace of God. None of us are perfect. We will often fail. But in charting a course intentionally, we will go further than if we simply allow ourselves to drift.
So, may God point us in the way we should go, may he support us every step of the journey, and may he cause us to grow that we might be fruitful for him.
P.S. The Church of England has released some excellent reflections and “have a go” habits on Good Mental Health in the context of the current situation. Highly recommended!
P.P.S. Bridgetown Church in Portland, Oregon has an excellent corporate Rule of Life related to the coronavirus crisis. It can be found here: https://www.brdgtwn.church/rule Anything you see which you like, incorporate it into your own Rule.