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Monastic inspiration - Paul reflects on his sabbatical 

I recently had the fabulous opportunity of a 3-month sabbatical, something the Church of England
offers to its ministers once every 7 years. It was a time of rest, some study and a time to be
refreshed in my own relationship with God. As I prepared to come back from this time I reflected on
all that had been and was so struck by the ways in which God had guided and spoken.


I want to share two moments in particular. Firstly, as part of a holiday by train through Italy, my wife
and I visited Assisi. I had not seen this visit, as many do, as a pilgrimage. I have always been inspired
by the story of Francis, so was drawn to Assisi, but did not envisage this time as anything more than
an interesting part of the trip. However, on the first evening as I went into the streets of Assisi to
find something to buy for our dinner, I was overwhelmed by a deep sense of God’s presence in that
place. Here was a place still drawing visitors, and still heavy with a sense of God’s peace, through the life of one man who committed himself to prayer and service to the poor.

Secondly, I visited Waverley Abbey which is now a centre for the 24/7 prayer movement who are
drawing afresh on the tradition of prayer and community life that was the legacy of the ancient
monastery there. I sat and prayed at the centre of the ruined abbey, where for centuries the monks
would meet to pray seven times a day. And it struck me afresh that this is where all ministry begins,
in the simple, regular gathering of disciples to pray in community together.

Waverley Abbey (3).jpg

These principles of community, prayer and loving service to the communities around us, are at the
heart of the ministry of missional communities. It is simple really, and not new, as these ancient
testimonies from Assisi and Waverley make clear. However it feels to me that the simplicity,
discipline and radical love of the monastic lives of the past are values many are being called to
rediscover in our own era.

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