Tag: The Church

A Protestant Goes to a Monastery:

 

By Jonathan David Faulkner

 

I once considered Cloistered life, no joke, as I studied Church History I found the flow and practice of Monastic life quite appealing. Eventually I began visiting a little Benedictine Monastery and conversing with the brothers. As I prayed about the decision I found God was not calling me to Holy Orders, he wanted me in the Local Church and while one can do that in a Monastery, but it is not the primary purpose. Also, I am not Catholic, as you know I was raised Presbyterian, served as a Baptist Pastor and am working on Ordination in the 4C’s. I am aware there are Protestant Monasteries, even Protestant order of Franciscans, I consider myself a student of the Little Saint from Assisi, (I now own the Omnibus of Sources on him), but the more I prayed about it, the more the Lord called me back to His mission for my life. I still enjoy going to Monasteries, they are quiet places, great for study, praying and listening and resting.

It was the last three reasons that I went. If you live here at the Seminary you know that my life has been a bit crazy lately, between leading worship for Chapels, God’s Heart, Paper Writing and all those other things associated with Seminary Life I had been running a bit low on energy, I needed a rest, since I missed the Soul Care retreat in February because of Mentored Ministry I had not had a proper break and since I load my semesters to get a lot done early on I found myself in need of a break.

So I saw the opportunity and took it, a day trip down to the Monastery with one of my fellow Seminarians.

The Monastery is set in the hills, next to the little towns of Still River and Harvard (Not the school). Its white buildings were built in the 1600’s with the exception of a barn that was built when the Benedictine’s first moved out to the Monastery in the 70’s and took up Dairy Farming. Now it is the multi-purpose facility for the use of the many retreat groups that come through their each year. Benedictine Monks are called to perform some task per The Rule of St. Benedict and this particular Monastery’s good was hospitality.

We arrived for 8AM mass, it was modeled after the Old Mass so everything was spoken and sung in Latin with the exception of Holy Scripture, which was read in English. We of course could not take Communion since we were not Baptized Catholics, but it was interesting to see the Host Elevated and hear the prayers and songs of the Monks as they joyously participated. After that we met with Father Augustine and toured the Monastery, visiting the guest house and learning about the History of the Abbey. After that we were on our own for awhile, we ended up going down to a little stone chapel (My room here on campus is bigger) and spending time in silent prayer and scripture meditation. I also wrote a poem while we were there. Then we trekked back up to the Monastery (about a mile) in the rain so we could meet with Father Augustine to ask questions about Monastic Life. We then went to Sext, one of the divine offices, which was again in Latin, though this time we had English translations, and after that lunch. The rest of the time was spent reading and praying and being quiet before the Lord. I spent the afternoon in the guest house, watching the storm clouds pass by outside, occasionally feeling the warmth of the sun on my shoulders.

It was a quiet and peaceful day, just the day I needed as I drank in the much needed prolonged scripture reading. Meditating specifically on Psalms 130 all morning while sitting in that tiny stone chapel, listening to the birds sing and the rain fall, it was, what my Protestant Soul needed.

I know my readers are going to ask “Why did you go to Mass? Aren’t you a protestant?” The answer to the second question is “Yes, I am a Protestant,” Reformed as the next Reformed Theologian, but does that mean I can reject all that came before Calvin and Luther? We have discussed before how Church History did not start at the Reformation, Catholicism is our roots, and we are all part of the catholic (universal) church, which includes Catholics. There are also some very beautiful and life-giving practices given us by the Catholic Church that even Calvin upheld as good things (i.e Monastic devotion to study of scripture, praying the psalms). I may not agree with Transubstantiation, preferring the Reformed Doctrine of Real Presence and the explanation of Divine Mystery to answer the “How?” But there are many beautiful practices given us by the Early Church and then the Catholic Church that should never have been left behind.

The truth is, I went because it was good for my soul to experience God in another context, to be with Him in a place that was unfamiliar, yet quiet. The Mass was the best place to start, focusing my heart on God and preparing me for a day spent mostly in silence. The beauty of the Latin Service helped me meditate on the beauty of God. The reading of Scripture help prepare my heart to receive more Scripture. By the time we reached the Little Stone Chapel my heart was ready to listen to God.

As I opened my Bible to the Psalms I opened directly to 130. A psalm I long ago memorized and have spent time praying and meditating on. I decided to that this was a good time to pray through it again. As I did verse 7 kept repeating in my head: “Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is Steadfast Love and with the Lord is plentiful Redemption.” With these words came the Joy of the knowledge of that Plentiful Redemption. As I thought through the verses over and over again, the forgiveness of Iniquities, waiting for the Lord, Hoping in him, I could not help but think about how these aspects of the Gospel. Hope, Love, forgiveness of sins, all of those things that this Psalm reminds us of that we now have through the cross of Christ. How do we not come to him in gratitude and seek His will out of gratitude and with tears of Joy as we consider what He has done for us.

Do you know how big God’s Heart for you is? Or do you never get the chance to see it, is your life so full of activity that you never had time to simply retreat into Him. Do you ever sit back and consider what He has done for you by His great work of redemption on the cross. Or is your relationship with Him distant, you being unaware of His indwelling Spirit and Him reaching out to you, but you not knowing?

Oh dear brother, dear sister, I pray you know the Joy of your redemption so fully that it inspires you to sporadic praise of Him who gave it.  That you might be spurred to greater love and good works for those around you. That is might encourage you to encourage others, that it might exhort you to love God more deeply and to walk more closely with Him. That it might encourage you to righteous living and through that you might become an instrument of Justice, peace and mercy.

This is what I took from being with the community of Benedictine Monks. That there is so much Joy in our redemption that to deny that Joy is to deny part of its very core.

Oh brothers and sisters, hope in the Lord, always, hope in the Lord.\

 

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Jonathan David Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree inChristian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry

Jonathan Takes Five: Talks Arts, the Church and Seminary Life.

By Bradly Tucker14140_10151927346899245_829737775_a

Hamilton Mass: Jonathan David Faulkner, the 24-year-old Proprietor of God’s Heart for Those and the former director of 10:31 Life Ministries, Pastor, Musician and Writer took a moment out of his busy study schedule to sit down and talk about his passion for the arts and the church, his current writing project and life in Seminary.

Brad: Jonathan, thank you for joining me.

Jonathan: You’re welcome

Brad: We know that you are musician, many of our readers have heard your music live, but what most people do not know about you is that you write as well. Can you tell us a little bit about that aspect of your life and any projects you might be working on?

Jonathan: Well, since I was a kid I have loved to tell stories, my mother used to say I could make something up and no one would know if it were true or not. I did not always use that power for good, especially before I became a Christian in 8th grade. I never wrote any of them down, what I did write was poem after poem, some in lyric structure, others were just poems. I would write them at school, print them off and carry them around in a huge binder or write them in this big notebook. I still have the binder and most of the songs, I should go back and look at them.

Anyway, I wanted to write a book, so I started writing this weird apocalyptic thing in this huge notebook. The idea was pretty good, or at least I thought it was, but I never finished it. My Junior year of college I wrote a book about my life and God’s work in it in about two weeks, I do not know where that book is now. Then last year I started working on a book series called “The Mozzaratt Saga.” Four books, a Trilogy and an origin story written by the main character of the book. I am almost done with book one and have made a good deal of progress in the origin story. The second and third book are still in the planning stages while I work out the plot, which by the way, you will have to buy the books when they come out. I am also working on a project dealing with Star Trek and another on Reconciliation and Social Justice, this of course while maintaining a rigorous Seminary reading schedule.

Brad: Those sound interesting, we know you have been involved in the Seminary’s Art’s Society. What do you think is the relationship between Christianity and Art?

Jonathan: I think they should be closely linked. In fact part of my mentored ministry responsibilities will be working in promoting art of all kinds at the church. For me it comes down to this; as Christians we are created by God, as part of God’s creativity, part of a natural response to that is to create, and we all do it, whether it is writing a song or coming up with your own paper filing system, we all create. I believe we are called to be sub-creators. Meaning, we create out of the overflow of our hearts of the Love of God with the desire to glorify Him by what we create. In Christianity then, art becomes a discipline for practicing the presence of God and glorifying Him, as well as a means to bless others by the gifts God has given us.

Several years ago, as part of the Good Discipline Series for GHFT I wrote an article on Art as a discipline. I still feel the same way, the closer we get to God the more our creativity will show up in the things we do. Back then I had written like 12 songs, in the 3 years since that article was written I have written over 200 more, that’s the Holy Spirit, that’s God driven creativity, I cannot take credit for that.

Brad: So should the church embrace all forms of art?

Jonathan: Absolutely, we do ourselves a disservice when we relegate art to music and music only. Painting for example is a wonderful expression of the Glory of God. Poetry is part of the Bible, and there is a lot of good poetry and good poets sitting in our congregations. I have talked to artistic church members who feel like they are being stifled, like their creative abilities have no place in the church. So we do ourselves and these an incredible disservice by not embracing their gifts and abilities so that we can all be blessed by them.

It should also be said that arts is individual praise to God expressed in the Corporate body. If you praise God by painting the body of Christ should have the chance to join you in praising and Glorifying God. That way, in your eternal enjoyment of Him, others might also get to enjoy Him through the use of your gifts.

Brad: Do you have time to create while in Seminary?

Jonathan: Not as much as I did before, that is for sure. But I try to take time out of my day to work on “non-academic work” to make sure I have time to let the creative juices flow. I spend a lot of those hours working on the book series or writing music. I call them Artist Dates, a term we used in Denver to describe getting away to do what our soul longs to do.

Brad: So art helps you cope with a busy schedule?

Jonathan: Among other things, I have a strict routine that I follow as far as prayer and scripture reading go. Sometimes I go to prayer on campus, though usually I leave early because the spirit has stirred something within me and I have to write a song or poetry or something. I need to start taking a notepad with me.

Brad: Any final thoughts on Art and life in general?

Jonathan: I think that art is as much formative as it is transformative. I will give you an example; songwriting, for me, usually comes out of times of deep reflection and contemplation on God and what He has done. That is formative for me because it helps me draw closer to Him. But say that song makes it into my life show, someone hears the message and is encouraged and drawn closer into their relationship with God who is transforming us through Sanctification. Or starts to think about God because of it. Whether that night or over time they find themselves drawn to God and become a believer and be transformed by God and the Gospel because God encouraged me, by the Spirit, to write the song. It also may be transformative for me in case I forget the lesson I was contemplating when I wrote the song. It could be the same with a poem, a story, a drawing, a painting any form of creativity, especially when coupled with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Brad: Finally can you tell us what you are working on for the upcoming month at GHFT?

Jonathan: Sure, today I finished up an article on Interruptions and Ministry and I have been doing some research on the latest Joshua Feuerstien’s claims. So there could be another article addressing his teachings and claims. Other than that I cannot say what God is going to do, what surprising work of grace He might see fit to bring about that would make me want to praise Him.

Brad: Thank you Jonathan and have a good night.

Jonathan: You too Brad, night.

 

Bradly Tucker is the Content Editor & Copyright Manager for GHFT