The reason we have written this rule is that, by observing it in monasteries, we can show that we have some degree of virtue and the beginning of monastic life. Ch. 73 of the Rule of Benedict
Where would we begin a Rule for the local church? I think this question is vital for our time. Benedict begins his prologue with “Listen, my son, to the instructions of a master . . . ” but his first chapter begins with a description of the kinds of monks and so what kind of life he is addressing. What equivalent place would we begin?
I think I would begin the instruction to any church with a basic orientation to the Rule of God revealed in Christ. But again, so large a thing must be taken in bites. I would begin the Rule with God, who is this God revealed in Christ? I have written about that here on Hidden Habits several times. But I think with that basic theological statement must come the two anthropological statements of Scripture, that God loves humanity and that we have a calling in the world to be God’s image, God’s children, emissaries.
In the Christianity of our day, those two statements seem most important for unity and clarity. Unity because, whatever else we may define ourselves by, we are all claiming by the name that we are following Jesus. Clarity because we must define carefully who we are talking to and what we assume behind our talking.
Christians are baptized into the body of Christ, into the Spirit of God, given new life, new humanity, and new covenant. But we are called into the world that God loves and that Christ died for, that the Spirit created and will someday renew completely. We are not enemies of the world. If the world does not love us, it is because it does not love Christ, but that doesn’t change that Christ died for it and rose again. We are to love the world doggedly, relentlessly, because we belong to Christ, because we have faith in God, because we trust the Spirit to provide all we need.
Our Rule is only an agreement of how we will work together, how we will give flesh and goals to this way of living. It does not guarantee perfection, in deed it cannot. We will fail. That is okay. The love of God is not dependent on our ability to meet expectations, thank God. What else could be meant by, “. . . while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” But we are not to remain as we are, but rather to be transformed by the Spirit at work within us, and the Rule at work without.
So with these parameters, let us begin our Rule:
There is one God, the Creator who made us and who is made known to us in Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. God loves the world and has set us free in Christ and is renewing us in his Spirit to be a royal priesthood, a people set apart to bear God’s image of love, grace, forgiveness, justice and peace in the world. We are to be a people of prayer who know and love God and serve the world calling the whole creation back to the Creator, living in the resurrection that has begun in our Lord.
There are seven activities for every one who would follow this Rule with us as we seek to live into the Rule of God as revealed in Jesus and held by the church. We are to be a people of witness and stewardship, who welcome, worship, study and serve in the name of Christ, living not for ourselves alone but for him who died and rose for us.
Here at Grace, we are a congregation within the Episcopal branch of that great mustard plant of the church. We are shaped by its worship, doctrine, and discipline, and we hold that this church is and must be in continuity with the root stock of God in Christ and the teachings and fellowship of the apostles. We affirm baptism in water and the Holy Spirit as the only entrance into the church and the eucharist meal as the sign and seal of our life and discipleship in Jesus the Christ.
So what do you think? What would you change? How would you begin a Rule for a community in our day and age?