The Well Community Rule

Ora, labora, et gaude (pray, work, and rejoice)

Peace and Grace to you, brother and sister in faith.

Thank your for your interest in sharing life together. This document outlines next steps in discerning what life together would look like in the monastic community of The Well.

You are invited to explore and experience communal life: sharing in a rhythm of spiritual practice, accountability, support, and community while also cultivating core monastic principles. The monastic goal is to live God’s kingdom in the here and now – together, intentionally, and in joy.

Below, you will find a more full explanation of what this life means and how you can take your first steps into living an ancient rhythm in a postmodern way. This may seem like a long document. Don’t let the length scare you; it is just there to help make things more clear, not overwhelm you.

The goal of a monastic community is to provide a path by which a person who already lives a spiritual life can find order, help, support, and intention for their lives. We do not strive to offer “things to do” or “practices to add” on to an already full life. Rather, we hope to help create a rhythm of wholeness, offer challenges that foster spiritual maturation, and enter into community with one another. If the rule does not work toward these ends, we should revisit and revise it. That is what these forty days are for – an experiment of practice.

Peace and Blessings,

Katie M Ladd

RULE OVERVIEW

Practices and Disciplines

Prayer

Daily Scripture

Weekly Worship

Sabbath

Principles and Values

Generosity

Hospitality

Simplicity

Justice

Compassion

Embodiment

Beauty

Neighborliness

Community Formation & Maintenance

Weekly check in with abbot during the 40 days

Community dinner (1 time during the 40 days)

SPIRITUAL PRACTICES AND DISCIPLINES

Prayer:  At least twice a day, enter into a time of prayer and reflection in whatever form or way is meaningful for you. Traditional forms of prayer include lectio divina, examen, praying the Psalms, extemporaneous prayer, silent meditation, and praying the hours.

Prayer for one another daily. At least once a day, pray for each member of our community by name or through intention. Also, hold the community as a whole and its future in prayer. We are fledglings together. We all need prayer.

While how, when, and how often you pray is not defined by the rule, those who wish to pray the hours are encouraged to do so four times a day. Please let me know if you would like to try this method. In praying the hours, one joins others in time and space, using an ancient pattern of prayer. There is an addendum to this letter that details more about the hours.

Daily Scripture: God meets us in Holy Word. Whether this is part of your regular prayer practice or another set aside time, scripture is foundational in forming our spirits and our community. You may choose Lectio Divina as one of your prayer practices, combining the two. Or, you may use a breviary which utilizes scripture in its liturgy. If you do not use a prayer tool that includes scripture, please include scripture in your daily life. It is the holy narrative that holds us.

Weekly Worship: Queen Anne United Methodist Church is currently the anchor church for this community. However, you may worship at whatever local faith community you call your own.

Weekly Sabbath: Just as regular or fixed hour prayer creates a daily rhythm of mindfulness toward and communion with God, Sabbath creates a weekly rhythm of mindfulness and communion toward and with God. Sabbath also calls us to be mindful of and in communion with neighbor and creation.

We have resources that will help you set this day aside and keep it holy (as was commanded to us). In short, Sabbath is a day to challenge the slavery of Empire by opting out of the production/consumption society that surrounds us; to celebrate that God delivered us from a life of slavery into a life of communion and joy; to remember the God of creation; to enjoy the joy of communion; to worship in love; to rest in God’s presence; and to delight in God’s world.

We will not be able to all experience Sabbath on the same day, but we will uphold one another in prayer as we all remember that God’s realm is not defined by unceasing labor but by profound abundance for all. For those in the community who hold jobs or live in circumstances where a full day Sabbath is not allowed (by not allowed, we mean really not allowed – working a shift job where hours are set by another, etc), I will work with you to establish an alternate rhythm.

Finding a way to keep a weekly Sabbath may be one of the most difficult aspects of monastic life. Let’s work together on why this is the case for you and find creative and joyful approaches to this most holy commandment.

PRINCIPLES AND VALUES

Generosity: Generosity is a value that can be embodied everywhere. A generous spirit is one that looks for ways to extend forgiveness without being asked, to ask for forgiveness when harm has been made, to expect the best and not the worst from the person in front, to reserve judgment, to see the world with hope, to listen deeply and to share honestly, to be compassionate rather than correct.

Hospitality: For those living in community, it is imperative that the household be known as a place of hospitality. How that is embodied is up to those living in the house. It can be as simple as inviting neighbors to picnics or over for games. It could be as radical as setting aside one room for a refugee or immigrant. It is up to you in conversation with the full community.

For those not living in community, how will you regularly practice hospitality in your homes and lives? This is not a “thing to do,” but an attitude or posture in the world. In our society, much is made about competition and individualism, but the Christian value of hospitality calls us to be different in the world.

Justice: “Justice is what love looks like in public,” Cornel West. A community committed to Jesus Christ means that justice must be part of the working of the residential community and embedded in the hearts and lives of those oblating (following the rule but not living in community). Justice requires us to examine how we participate in production and consumption practices; how we interact with others; how we respond to obvious instances or systems of injustice; and how we make choices in everyday living situations. There may be times that as a whole community we take stands based upon a shared Christian conscience. There may be other times that we support one another’s individual decisions in witnessing for justice. And, there may yet be other times when one person’s call to act for justice may stretch the rest of the community. During these times, we must find considerate ways to dialogue and pray with one another.

Compassion: Justice without compassion is a harsh rule for life. Compassion and generosity temper the hot spirit. Compassion may require action, but like the other values, it is a posture for living in the world. Compassion is a value we strive for more than correctness.

Embodiment: We are embodied beings. Much of spiritual life focuses on the ethereal, but at the center of Christianity is the realization that we live embodied existences, and we must be concerned with bodies – our bodies, the sacredness of others’ bodies, the embodied world. To embrace this value, it is important for us to consider how and what we eat, how and when we exercise, how we see and value the rest of God’s creation. All of the earth is God’s good creation. Embodiment calls us to revere all of creation and, like God, to profess it “good.”

Beauty: It may be easy to focus on the brokenness and the ugliness in the world. However, it is our holy obligation to be a community of healing and beauty in the world. This value encourages each of us to make the world a more beautiful place, and it challenges our whole community to be mindful and intentional about noticing the beauty and wonder of God’s handiwork and to create beauty in our neighborhoods and through our worship.

Neighborliness: For those living in residential community, you are called to be good neighbors to your local community – those people living in the vicinity of your house. For those living near Queen Anne UMC, your call will include neighborliness toward the anchor church as well. Neighborliness does not stop with the neighborhood, however. Jesus taught that even our enemies are our neighbors; everyone is our neighbor. We must seek an attitude of interrelationship and approachability in our residential communities.

For oblates, how do you relate with your neighbors? How are you participating with the community of The Well?

COMMUNITY FORMATION AND CARE

Community Meal: Just as Jesus located much of his life and ministry around the table, so have his followers. Once a residential community is started, that community will eat weekly together. Oblates will participate in the meal monthly (and for those living out of the area on a less regular basis). At the meal, we share our lives and remember God’s abundance.

Weekly check in: Not intended to feel like something “to do,” this is intended to be an opportunity to express how the rule is going, to discover if others in the community need prayer, to ask for prayer, and to make connection. This can be done in person, on the phone, or (less optimally) through email.

Praying the Hours:

If you choose to pray the hours, you are encouraged to pray them four times a day. This practice can be referred to as the Divine Office, the Liturgy of the Hours, or Fixed Hour Prayer. Traditionally, there are eight “offices” that can be prayed.

Matins (also called Vigils or Nocturnes), which are prayed near midnight

Lauds (dawn prayer, 3 am)

Prime (or early morning prayer or “first prayer,” 6 am-8 am)

Terce (or mid-morning prayer or “third hour,” 9 am-11 am)

Sext (or midday prayer or “sixth hour,” noon-2 pm)

None (or mid-afternoon or “ninth hour,” 3 pm-5 pm)

Vespers (or evening prayer or “at the lighting of the lamps,” 6 pm or between 5-8 pm)

Compline (or night prayer, 9 pm or right before sleep/going to bed)

At least twice per day, prayer should include praying the Psalms, which are the ancient songs and prayers of the One whom we follow. While we encourage the use of a breviary, you may also pray in your own manner.

Breviaries, or books that can help you pray, include “The Divine Hours” by Phyllis Tickle; The Book of Common Prayer for Ordinary Radicals by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, et al; Benedictine Daily Prayer: A Short Breviary, and many more. If you need help locating a tool that will help you, please let me know and I will work with you to find something that works well. I use a variety of resources with The Divine Hours serving as my main resource. There are a number of online sites and mobile apps that you can use as well.

Instructions on praying the hours: For a history and introduction to praying the hours, please visit one of these online explanations by Phyllis Tickle; they are short and very helpful: www.phyllistickle.com; www.annarborvineyard.org/resources/537; www.explorefaith.org/prayer/prayer/fixed/index.php; www.commonprayer.net.

Why we pray the hours times a day. Today’s life rhythm is different from that of our ancestors. Our patterns of life are not agrarian. While we are trying to become a monastic community, we will not be living in one that is oriented for Matins or Lauds. Given that, six hours would be available for prayer. It has become general practice in most Protestant communities that pray the hours to do so four times per day. In The United Methodist Book of Worship, there are four services of daily praise and prayer (These can be used for your prayer. However, they tend to be structured for communal use more than individual use). For our purposes, you are encouraged to pray Prime (early morning prayer, when you rise); Terce (mid-morning prayer); Vespers (evening); and Compline (night). However, tailor which four you pray according to your schedule. If you are busy during the allotted time, skip and pick up the next one or insert one of the others that you do not usually pray. The goal is to create a rhythm of prayer that orders the entirety of our day, not to create a rhythm of panic that seizes us all day long!

If you choose not to use a breviary, that is okay, but know that you will be opting out of some shared traditional prayers: the Kyrie Eleison, the Gloria Patri, the Magnificat, scripture readings, readings from or about saints, and the Psalms. You may craft your own pattern for liturgy that includes some of these elements if you choose to join in a practice that ties you to others through time. Also, please strive to include praying the Psalms two times a day, even if it is only one Psalm each time.

Do not let this practice seem overwhelming. It need not be. It may be difficult to establish the rhythm early on, but the habit will form.

Also, don’t diminish the challenge. You are encouraged not to “squeeze” prayer in in the midst of other things. Actually, take the 3-10 minutes needed for each “hour” and concentrate fully on that time. It is time spent with God. It is time spent with one another even if you are not in the same room. Even if your mind wanders or you do not “enjoy” that time, that is fine. Right now is just a period of cultivating the practice. Over time, different methods or content can be introduced.

For those living in community, meet in the common room of your home to pray together. Assign a person to lead and allow that person to use whatever tool he or she chooses. The goal is to join together in prayer, not to prayer exactly as you prefer. Flexibility and grace are part of spiritual practice. If you are the leader, be mindful and considerate of your community. Think about the others gathered around you. How will your leadership affect their spirits for the rest of the day? In the end, be true to your role in both leadership and in service.

Prayer for one another daily. At least once a day, pray for each member of our community by name or through intention. Also, hold the community as a whole and its future in prayer. We are fledglings together. We all need prayer.

LOOKING AHEAD FOR THE WELL

The goal is for The Well to become a full monastic community complete with cottage industries that represent and illustrate our values in embodied form as well as potentially providing revenue streams.

Current cottage industry and activities include:

Curriculum development: I have created a 7 session DVD based curriculum called “Rhythms of Life: Sabbath Keeping,” which teaches Christians about Sabbath and invites them into the practice. Every time I teach the course, money received goes to The Well.

Currently, we are exploring juice making, bread making, wine making, bee keeping/honey production. Whether any of these become a prayer practice or a funding stream will depend upon whether there are those in the community who discover a calling to them. In the meantime, we are finding a variety of ways to give life to these traditional monastic practices.

It may be that some of these become apprenticeship practices used to help people looking to cultivate marketable skills. We are exploring this idea with several area organizations.

If you do not find yourself a participant in the cottage industry practice, your life is still one of service and witness. You are encouraged to find a way to give your time to people in need, to heal the wounds of the earth, and to be builders of community. I am here, as will be the rest of the community, to encourage you in finding how and where you may  be “poured out as a libation” (Philippians 2:17).

Community retreats: Retreats may be scheduled for the community no more often than quarterly and no less often than annually. The goal is to spend time apart all together in prayer, play, and community building. As people who primarily will not share households, spending time together is important – to pray, to laugh, to get to know one another, to breathe deeply, and to recommit to life together.

Residence Maintenance: For those living in community, there will be special agreements around living together that will touch on cleaning, quiet hours, guest privileges, adding new members, and so forth. These components will be established within each household and will be specific to each household.

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If you find this rhythm meaningful and would like to continue in it, we will pray with you and covenant with you for one year apprenticeship during which you will be a novice. After that time, you will decide whether you want to continue indefinitely or not.

The traditional Benedictine motto is ora et labora, which means “pray and work.” We have modified this for our community so that it says, “ora, labora, et gaude,” which means, “pray, work, and rejoice” because The Well is about a joyful community that delights in one another, God, and all of creation.

Our theology can be found in one scripture, Luke 10:27, which says, “’Love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

This is the covenant by which we will live following Christ in community at The Well that we may “love God and love neighbor.”

 

 

 

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