A massive wave of ‘Celtic’ books swamped our shores some years ago. It’s been a quiet coastline since, so far as that ancient tide of Christianity is concerned. All of a sudden, it seems the stream is starting to flow again.
In Creating Community, London vicar Simon Reed cracks open this old indigenous flow of spirituality.
“One feature of the church in Britain in the fourth to eighth centuries was that it held together many of the strands of Christianity which today have become separated,” he writes.
“The ‘Celtic Church’ had an evangelical emphasis upon the scriptures and upon mission, a Catholic sense of the importance of incarnation and sacrament, a Pentecostal-charismatic experience of the work of the Holy Spirit, and an Orthodox vision of God as Trinity.”
As a “guardian” of a new monastic movement, the Community of Aidan and Hilda, Simon encourages his readers to look back again at these former ways of “doing church”.
The usual stuff about community and Celtic saints comes up in his writing. Such things have been discussed before. But Simon also explores the idea of a “rule of life”.
I must admit, his is one of the clearest and most concise analyses I have seen – shaping it into three basic principles of simplicity, purity and obedience. The aim is to develop “a disciplined spirituality”, as he puts it.
His examination of “soul friendship” is very good, too. I’m inspired by this ancient method of discipleship, but also hesitant because of its darker modern counterpart, the “heavy shepherding” movement. Still, we should be open to the authentic concept of soul friends if we’re to be fully human.
Linked to this, the author shares helpful and practical pointers about prayer and reflection as a community – including an astonishing experience of welcoming a Muslim into his church who wanted a space to pray. Clearly there is much to discover about prayer together.
Throughout the book, Simon uses the phrase “ordinary Christians”, drawing everyone into this journey of faith. In his conclusion, he makes his strongest statement of all – that a “new monasticism” with old roots will be the salvation of our broken society.
Simon’s study shows that the message of Celtic Christianity has matured and outlasted the “trendy” years. Both practical and profound, Creating Community ought to be a recommended handbook for church leaders everywhere.