Hi, I’m Alex. I’m doing a PhD in Loughborough and am training to be a reader in my local Church. In May, as part of my reader training, I spent a week living with the Community of the Tree of Life.
Before arriving at the Community of the Tree of Life, I wasn’t really sure what it would look like to live a ‘monastic life’? I had visions of people in hair shirts avoiding technology in some sort of ultra-simplistic way of living. I was expecting weird rules that would take me so far away from the world that I would be completely cut-off from reality. When I arrived, I was surprised; I had a nice room, they were nice people and there was a whiff of normality about the place too!
What I noticed most was the pauses. I tend to be incredibly busy. I cram my life with social activities, work and other commitments. I usually have so much on that what I do is rushed. Reading the Bible or spending time in prayer with God becomes something to get to the end of instead of something to enjoy and something I do to be intimate with God. This was not the case at the Tree of Life! There were pauses. There was no rushing and no commitments to cram. There was time given to pause. Time to be with God.
Three times each day, the community gathered in the chapel, to spend time in prayer. Once a week time is given to take a couple of hours of solitude with God; no rush, no objective except to be with God.
The most memorable thing was the community that has formed. There is something special about sharing a meal and having fellowship with the same people each day. On Friday the “companions” of the Community (and their kids) joined with us to share a celebration meal and play some games together. Often I feel as though we don’t always live up to the Bibles vision of what it looks like to live as a Christian family. It’s actually hard to “do life together” in a way that is deep and meaningful. This place really seemed to be doing it right, especially when the wider community gathered with all ages.
Now being at the Tree of Life for a week hasn’t magically improved my intimacy with God. I haven’t instantly reordered my whole life so that I’ve become a hermit – that’s not what the community is about. However, it has allowed me to take stock of my life and how I was living. It has inspired me to consider how to live my life on a day to day basis with rhythms of prayer, scripture and solitude with God. If you’re after a quick fix then I would suggest the Tree of Life is not for you, but if you are after long term discipleship; if you’re wanting to grow daily in intimacy with God then you may want to have a look at what they’re doing.
To find out more about ‘Becoming a Novice’ << CLICK HERE >>