Abbey/Minster Church Model

A church modeled for community.

For most people, the mention of “abbey” calls to mind monks in robes, chanting, old stone churches and a spirituality that is cold and removed from real life. Actually, the Abbey/Minster form for a church community is far from cold and removed from real life. But in order to understand this we need to look to the Celtic Christian church of St. Patrick, St. Columba, St. Aidan and many more. Though let’s be clear, the abbey model is not something to be romanticized – green hills, clover and the like. Rather the abbey model is something deeply relevant for today. It is a way of being the community of faith in the world we find ourselves in.

Pastor Chuck Warnock on his blog points to 10 marks of the abbey church. They are: 1) Worship, 2) Arts, 3) Hospitality, 4) Economics, 5) Learning and scholarship, 6) Catechesis and spiritual direction, 7) Rule of life in community, 8) Ministry to the marginalized, 9) Peace and justice, 10) External missions. Read the entire post at your leisure.

We, at St. Columba’s, would highlight a few more that are particular marks of the community here in Missoula. First, the abbey/minster community is both local and regional. What we mean by this is that we are both rooted in our local communities, the communities in our neighborhoods, while being brought together weekly to worship with one another. This combination provides a very specific local understanding of our calling as community while not losing sight of our desire to reach the Missoula valley. Second, the abbey model is collegial. We do not work using a top down mentality, rather the desire is to work as a team of both lay persons and ordained to accomplish our goal. This working together means that we all have a role to play. There is no sitting back and watching. All of us have something to contribute to our community. Lastly, we are all called to the mission of the community. What this call develops in us is a focus that is both on the community itself and outside of the community. It calls us to be flexible and think beyond our own way of thinking. We must embrace the fullness of expression in order to fully express what God has called us to be. These facets are the strength and ingenuity of the Abbey/ Minster model.

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