Two weekends ago (the 10th, 11th, and 12th) we hosted at the Rutba House a gathering called School for Conversion. School for Conversion brings together people interested in living in community at an established community to ask questions and participate in the life of a community for a weekend. It also includes some seminars. From my perspective and understanding of New Monasticism and specifically School for Conversion, a core value of this kind of Christian life (and really any, but perhaps there is more emphasis than usual from NM) is the need for continual repentence and conversion, to turn again and again and again. God calls us, even after we have become Christians, to turn more and more towards him. For that reason, these new monastic communities are called Schools for Conversion (different from the gathering/non profit organization with the same name), the idea being that this way of life provides a way for us to be trained and molded into a continual recognition of our need for repentence. During our weekend here, my housemate Sarah used the story of Jonah as a good example of 1) needing to turn more than once and 2) a kinda dismal example of a prophet, in that he just never seems to “get it,” and the story ends with God rebuking him, not with Jonah being totally on board with God.
Following SfC, my church had revival last week. Revival, at least in Southern black churches, is a yearly occasion. It’s a season of the church down here, just like Advent, Lent, Chrismas, and Easter. At our church, revival was Monday through Thursday night, 2 hours each night. It was my first time attending a revival, and even though I was only able to attend on Wednesday night, I got a good taste of revival. The point of revival is exactly what its name suggests-to wake up the church and call folks to repent and live more fully in the Spirit. This takes the form of a guest preacher, guest choirs, and everything special for a solid week. The basic gist of the sermon each night is to call people to realize their need for God and their need to spread the Gospel, and also to invite those who would confess Jesus as Lord to do so in their midst.
My final episode is about rebirth, and by that I mean a new beginning. I’m referring to my sister’s wedding, which took place this past weekend. The entire weekend was very happy and emotional as all of us remembered Amy’s recent sickness while celebrating how far she’s come and the beginning of her new life with Alex. Jason Mack’s homily during the ceremony was beautiful; I think it rightly expressed the reality of the last few months as well as their future life together as being one of sacrificial love.
The connection I see in all three of these recent events in my life is the need for renewal, and the reality of renewal in God. The School for Conversion emphasizes that expressly, as does the revival at church. The wedding, to me, is reminiscent of the new wine Jesus makes at the wedding at Cana. The transformation that happens in that water that becomes wine is a mirror of our new life in Christ. Marriage represents this new beginning, a marriage to Christ and a new citizenship in his kingdom. That Jesus presents and represents the possibility for repentence, revival, and rebirth is a reassuring truth even in the midst of troubling times, sickness, and our doubt.