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Alone and Together

As a Community we’ve always understood the need to balance ‘a prayer that is quiet and contemplative with a faith that is active and contagious’, in expressing our way for living. We believe this particular expression is a gift of God to us as we’ve increasingly understood that we all need both ‘enclosure’ (Alone) and ‘encounter’ (Together) in our lives. As Henri Nouwen says “Solitude and Community belong together; each requires the other, as do the centre and circumference of a circle. Solitude without Community leads to loneliness and despair, but Community without solitude hurls us into a ‘void of words and feelings.”

This is the genius of our corporate identity – the Alone mediated through the Together and the Together mediated through the Alone – wherever we are. Our friends in the Dutch Community De Spil put it well; ‘We eat together, even if it isn’t at one table’ – ‘We live together, even if it isn’t in one house’ – ‘We pray together, even if it isn’t in one chapel.”

This paradox of being alone together, of being present to one another as a ‘community of hermits’ is to recognise that the inner journey, the landscape of the heart is not an end in itself. All spiritual disciplines are to better equip us to engage the world of others, in the landscape of the land, our outer journey. We are blessed to be a blessing. We need the inwardness of knowing who we are in ourselves, in order to know whose we are in the wider world, because self-awareness increases God awareness, which in turn makes us aware of the world of others.

Did God make us for Community? Absolutely, for without togetherness, the touch of others, we’d have a greatly diminished life.

Did God make us for solitude? Absolutely, for without solitude, the time to be alone, we’d be peopled out and exhausted.

We need both simultaneously or we will be in danger of either getting lost in the maze of the inner life within us or lost in the perplexity of the noisy crowd all around us. To have both enclosure and encounter provides the necessary checks and balances so we can have the best of both. As Parker Palmer observed “It’s like breathing in and breathing out – together they give life.”

Trevor Miller