Thought for the week, 9th March; Form filling

Back in the 6th century, large numbers were drawn to live together in Christian communities, as monks or nuns. There was no agreed way on how these men and women should live. St David, who we commemorated a few weeks ago, advocated a life of particular simplicity and austerity but there was a danger that of competition between communities to see who could follow the most harsh way of living. The sin of pride can take many forms. A monk called Benedict sought to avoid issues such as this by setting out a series of simple but sustainable rules whereby a community could live together, combining work and prayer. The rule of St Benedict is still followed by many Christian communities today. However, at its heart the rule is about how any group can live well and virtuously together. Part of this involves doing mundane and boring jobs; those of us in work will know that reminders to fill in risk assessments or attend to safeguarding training rarely bring joy. These were not issues Benedict and his monks had to face, but there were equally unglamorous jobs that faced those living in communities and Benedict wrote about these,  as part of the discipline of humility. He devotes part of the rule to tell monks to put their tools away tidily and return plates and dishes to the cupboard. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams has recently commented on this.  “Part of our responsibility as a member of a community is to make sure that the material circumstances we share are well organised. That too is prayerful attention. That too is creating the environment in which the likeness of Christ will grow”. Physical tidiness and attention to forms play there part in helping us all to live together in community.