These are fundamental values which shape life at Othona West Dorset.
A Rule of Life has been described as "simply a structure in which spiritual formation is facilitated… It should be something you yearn to do. It is a tool for growth, not a pair of iron pants." The word Rule can have negative associations, but it also connects our life here with other religious communities down the centuries. They tried to sum up their experience and their approach in some such 'tool for growth'. This Rule is offered as a touchstone for core members, an expression of their commitment to an experiment in living. It speaks in a tone, not of harsh command but of gentle wise urging.
Work, worship, study and play – as established by Othona's founder, Norman Motley – are the four 'strands' from which the daily life of Othona is woven. They are intertwined concepts: no one strand is more important than, or can be separated from, the others. When we approach work, worship, study and play with practical energy and loving awareness, the whole of life reveals itself as a sacrament, an outward sign of an inward blessing.
Read more about our Rule of Life.
It is in relationships that community and spirituality come together. In our experience of relating – with colleagues and friends and family, with strangers, with enemies, with our environment and the whole cosmos, with God – we are continually offered both challenge and blessing. Any community alive to today's world will face the challenges of diversity. It helps if we cultivate an understanding of the many factors that produce difference. Some may be relatively obvious: gender, age, race, religion, physical and mental ability, nationality, social background, sexual orientation. Others are less evident but equally influential: personality type, ethical stance, spiritual maturity and so on.
Uniformity is not our aim. We hope to discover common ground by meeting honestly and living generously. No genuine sense of community can grow without integrity and honesty. The New Testament advises "speaking the truth in love". To discern a proper balance between truth and love, when to speak and when not, is a vital art. And we do well to remember how partial our own ideas of truth may be. Those who have responsibility and influence in the Community should be particularly open to hear criticism without a knee-jerk defensiveness.
Many of us come into community feeling called to say Yes, to be always giving and affirming - and this way of life gives us plenty of scope. But being only human, we need our boundaries too. A tough but important lesson on the Core is how and when to say No. If we try to meet every expectation, we will probably end up unable to meet any. With each other's support we can also choose to say No, in part at least, to the seductive norms of our day: excessive individualism, addictive consumerism, a limitless hunger for new stimuli, the obsession with problems and short-term fixes, cynicism and apathy. We can embrace positive alternatives: interdependence, simplicity, the contemplative eye, stamina and sustainability, hope and commitment.
In our relationships with each other and with the wider community, we "seek to know each other in those things which are eternal" as Quakers say. Our founder Norman Motley used to put it this way: in community, as our fears and defences are lowered, we experience what Christians call the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit.