Introductory Note:

In an excerpt from a lengthy interview about life in the Celtic Christian monastic society, Northumbria Community, we learn a little today about ministering to the vows of both availability and vulnerability within that context.

Renovaré Team

How are the shared vows of availability” and vulnerability” an outgrowth of Celtic Christianity, and why are they important for the community?

They are informed and to some extent inspired by the monastic way for living developed by the desert fathers and mothers and the Celtic saints and have given the community an interpretive framework for our lives individually and together. They are a touchstone, a plumbline, and a continually recurring provocation. They are the essence! Availability and vulnerability keep us grounded and looking for practical responses in everyday life. And they provide a nudge when there is something one might rather put off until later.

Availability is about being open to life: to God and to others. It is to be open to those who cross my path, believing that there is good reason to give of myself, and receive from others, just because God loves us and gives us each other, even if only for a time.

Vulnerability relates to being honest and having integrity and openness about who I am — the good, the bad, and the ugly — and how I deal with myself in the context of my faith, but without an agenda for others. It is willingness to share the pain of others and to live in co-suffering love beside another simply because they are. It is to be a beggar alongside, and sharing my bread, as well as my brokenness. It is about being teachable, in every situation embracing the learning experience: what will God teach me through this?

Lives are often messy and complicated and throughout we are taught to put on a brave face, to project an image. With community we must be real; proximity to people breeds a knowledge of them. As a group committed to letting God work in our lives, we need be open to God working with and through others: we can be open (available) to the encouragement and direction of others and show the real us (vulnerable). There will be heartache and pain, but we never give up on each other. Instead we show God’s grace. It also means that we receive others’ needs and consider their circumstances.

In some odd way the vows seem to be relevant to much of life and make sense in working through difficult situations. Staying available and vulnerable in the presence of God is what the journey is all about. Through the shared vows we are all starting from the same baseline: honesty and reality in relationships made possible by this common understanding.