This Summer, Reverend Bastiaan Baan will present lectures in several communities across North America; details will be posted on this page as they become available.
December 21, 2017
We have had a seminary in our region for over 15 years, and in that time it has gone through significant changes, from its leadership to its location. We are once again at such a crossroad. At the end of 2018 Bastiaan Baan, who has served as a seminary director for the past five years, will return to the Netherlands, and Patrick Kennedy will be moving fully into that position.
With this change, the international leadership of the Christian Community has challenged us to reevaluate the form and content of our training, and a small team consisting of Patrick, Jonah Evans and Julia Polter has been steadily working on this. This new envisioning process has also included the future location of our training. After considering various places, including staying at our current location, we felt that one site warranted further research, that being Toronto. At this point we are simply exploring what this might look like, the challenges and the benefits, and absolutely no decision has been made about this.
Concurrent to our work here, the international leadership is in a multi-year evaluation process of our entire worldwide priest training efforts and will finish that process in the summer of 2018. The results of this evaluation could also impact our seminary in North America; we will need that input before we can make any decisions here.
The purpose of this letter is two-fold: First, to share with you where we are in our considerations for the future and that all deliberations are still exploratory – no decision has been made, and second, to acknowledge the work and dedication that Bastiaan Baan has given to the life of our training and our region as he enters his last year here.
With warm greetings for the New Year,
North American Coordinator
Building Christ Community: A Course and an Experience
By Christine Wuerscher
We came together, by one’s and two’s, from across North America (New York, Maine, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, California, Alberta) to learn more about being an affiliate of the Christian Community from one another and from our leaders Bastian Baan, Patrick Kennedy and Oliver Steinrueck. Most of us had never met the others before and yet almost from the beginning, there was a remarkable degree of cohesion and openness to listening to and learning from the other. I have never been in a group in which 30 people (including the Seminary community) gave one other the space to express their thoughts without interrupting and allowed silence between speakers. It felt very respectful, safe, and, dare I say it, holy. We were united in a common goal: with our hearts, minds, and wills we wanted to learn more about serving Christ in community.
Most of the course participants only rarely have the blessing of participating in an Act of Consecration of Man, and so we especially treasured the daily immersion in it. It colored everything that followed in the day with a different light.
We moved across time and space to the beginnings of human community, where bloodlines tied people together. We heard that at the turning point of time, Christ formed a new type of community, one based on love. Acts and the letters of Paul, John, and James tell us about the struggles of these new communities, whose members were those who were aware of the presence of Christ in their lives. We can learn from them as we strive to be communities of Christ in our own contexts.
When we are tempted to look for the perfect model of community, it is important to be reminded that community is a process, not a destination, a verb, not a noun. It is a flexible body whose form is always changing, depending on the cultural context, the environment, the individuals and their needs and gifts. With so much in flux, where and how do we begin to create a vessel into which Christ can come?
Our understanding of what happens at the spiritual level can help us in determining the form of the community. The community archetype has a spirit, soul and physical body. The physical body has to do with members, finances and physical property. The soul is formed from the souls of all the members who interact and are bound together etherically in love. The spirit is the community’s point of contact with Christ. The latter occurs when the priest connects his or her being with the being (angel) of the congregation. The angel of the congregation, like other angels, is an organ of Christ. Before we come to the Act of Consecration of Man, the angel has already been preparing to meet us.
From this, we can understand why the altar and the sacraments must be the realm of the priest., the soul element of pastoral care can be shared by the members of the congregation and the priest, and the physical property can be mainly the realm of the members except for the physical “things” relating to the celebration of the sacraments, which must be directed by the priest, working at times in concert with architects and artists.
At the physical level, affiliates have no building but there is the need to set up and take down the worship area and to ensure, with the direction of the priest, that everything that is necessary for the celebration of the sacrament is at hand. We must also financially support the congregations from whom the priests come and cover the travel costs. As well, it would be good if we could and would support the work of The Christian Community at the regional and international level, which every established community is pledged to do, for we are all linked.
The spirit of the affiliate is embodied most clearly during the priests’ visits. Planning for priest’s visits and ensuring that all is ready and is in order for when he or she comes, is the part we members can play. We can help create the vessel for Christ to enter.
Besides the priests’ visits, there is much affiliates can do to nurture the body of Christ, (i.e. the community) in the soul realm. According to Steiner, in every act of wonder (vs. cynicism), we build up the astral body of Christ, in every feeling of compassion (vs. closed heartedness), we build up the life body of Christ and in every thought of conscience (vs. apathy), we build up the physical body of Christ. Our focus can be to strengthen the bonds of love between members and for the world and to strengthen our consciousness of Christ in our midst and in the world. Affiliates can put on devotional gatherings, puppet shows, courses, fund raisers for needy people and other activities that are responsive to the needs of the neighborhood. What is especially important is that we meet on a regular basis. Establishing a regular and more frequent rhythm of being in community is important for helping it to grow beyond the soul level to a level where a spiritual reality can be incarnated. We will know that something is being born when being together becomes a painful challenge! As someone in the group quoted, “If you’re happy and comfortable with your life, don’t join the Christian Community because your karma will begin to unfold.” During these painful challenges and at other times, participating in the Sacrament of Consultation can be a way of asking Christ to be our helping guide. Just as in the walk to Emmaus, Christ will join the conversation to open our hearts to the spirit working in our lives. When each individual member is striving to follow Christ and become more human, the whole community will benefit.
Affiliates face some different challenges from established Christian Communities. Because of the small size of the groups, the isolation from other communities, and the lack of a permanent space, members may experience loneliness and fatigue. This course has been one way of dispelling some of the loneliness in that we met others who are sharing some of the same challenges and now have contact information to continue our conversations and sharing. Fatigue can be mitigated by greater sharing of leadership roles. We explored the servant leadership model, one in which we are encouraged to see and serve the higher part of each individual, in which we recognize and encourage the expression of gifts and talents, and in which any resistance we offer comes out of an ideal (e.g. Love) rather than a position of power. We were also reminded of Jesus’ visit with Mary and Martha and that making Christ, (and time spent with Him) the center, source and wellspring of our planning and doing, increases our ability to persevere in joy. We had the opportunity to participate in two forms of devotional gathering which was especially appreciated by those of us who had never experienced one. In the gatherings, we sang, we heard the gospel and pondered on it, we prayed in silence and aloud, the Lord’s Prayer was said, we took turns reading the statements of the creed, crossed ourselves and didn’t cross ourselves… We entered a holy space through our devotions.
All seemed to appreciate the inclusion of music, the prayerful reading of the gospel, the saying of the Lord’s prayer and the creed. As for other aspects, we found that what helped some people to feel connected to the spirit, hindered others. For example, many felt uncomfortable using words in the devotion that came from the Act of Consecration of Man. Some felt somehow it dishonored the Act of Consecration. Others felt that it was making the gathering a lesser or lighter version of the Act of Consecration instead of something that could stand beside the Act of Consecration and be worthy in its own right. It is good to share with one another what we are doing because we can learn from each other and broaden the richness of our resources. At the same time, the contexts, cultures and people of each affiliate vary, sometimes in quite significant ways, and it may be best to leave it up to each affiliate to craft something that befits their community. It would be great if the act of devotion truly becomes an expression of the community which is engaging in it.
I found this course and the associated activities to be very enriching, inspiring exciting. and motivating. We deepened our knowledge of Christ, of the sacraments and of the Christian Community in its local, regional and international forms. We experienced Christ, in the sacrament and in each other, as the source of life and love and the reason for being the body of Christ in the world. We felt freed and encouraged to create a community whose shape, roles, types of activity and forms of devotion match our context and people. We felt empowered and urged to create and sustain communities of Christ for the sake of the world, and for the sake of The Christian Community. For, if we can figure out how to create true communities where everyone has a part to play, then we can become less dependent on our priests to do so much work on our behalf. Members becoming more engaged and participatory will allow priests to focus on the sacraments and serve several Christian Communities and/or affiliates. This, in turn, will allow us to be in more places in the world, to embody love and the truth that “there is no spirit without matter and no matter without spirit” (Steiner). And that may lead to change in our world. Perhaps it is for that reason that Oliver said, “Affiliates are the future of the church!”
Hearts are Beginning to Have Thoughts: The Meaning of Michaelmas
Michaelmas 2017 webinar with Rev. Patrick Kennedy