New Monastics In Norway

I have been to heaven and back. This took the form of an easy return flight from Newcastle to Stavanger and a short drive to Utstein Pilemgrimsgard with Haken. There, amid the fjords and sheep on bright green slopes our community’s annual gathering took place. The community is named Anam Cara. It is like a family where everyone is true to their hearts. They brought their talents: piano and flute playing, conflict resolution and hospitality, poetry and prayer and the rich conversation of pilgrims on a journey inspired by God. I shall never forget Tjorborn’s pictures of moths in his garden after dark – the ‘night life’ of God’s creation! Who could be an atheist after seeing these?

Anne-Kristin Aasmundveit and Kristin Wohlenberg took their vows as Vandrer (Wanderers-with-a-purpose or Voyagers) in an ancient church whose stones cried out. The worship was led by its former priest. Harald Gronnevik, who leads the regional Anam Cara group. Anne-Kristin’s husband Sven, who is a poet and song-writer, informed me that he is immersed in the desert fathers and mothers. He is composing fifty two songs. Each will make memorable a saying, truth or story from the desert.

The first time I came here the building was an empty school. Now it is beautifully furnished with guest rooms, chapel and extra facilities. The trustees have visited The Open Gate and we value our links. The warden, Reidun, told me that she is reducing her hours, but not resigning (there was a miscommunication due to language some months ago). A member who stands for election to local government told me that Norway ‘takes’ to Celtic spirituality because it never had the feudal system and class war imposed upon it. Like the early Celtic monastic settlements, to which everyone who was part of the extended tribal family belonged, those who live outside cities have a sense of shared belonging. He thinks Villages of God are right for Norway.

I was asked to talk about HOW we may live a new monastic way. But the first session gave the big picture: the different ways the world now faces - up to greed, back to racism, communism or theocratic empires, down to pleasure, self-concern and the dark forces, or forward to the way the living God guides us along as a voice beside us (Isaiah 31), thus becoming once again ‘the followers of the Way’ (Acts of the Apostles).

To make our way of life practical we then explored how, each day, we could learn something, take a step, live a rhythm, clear out some clutter, care for the earth, heal a hurt, listen deeply, build a bridge, and express compassion for the poor. We recalled William Morris’ words ‘A house should have nothing that is not useful or beautiful’. I return determined to scrutinise my stuff that is in storage ready for the time when the contract on my new house in Berwick is signed.

The ‘business meeting’ as far as I could understand, asked the question whether Anam Cara should remain a precious pearl that attracts those who find out about it, or whether it should take its light out from under a bush and transmit it by all means, such as through Facebook. Watch out.

Posted at 05:10am on 27th September 2016
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