Tonight I finished viewing the last installment of a series that recently aired on the ABC – “The Abbey“. For those who missed it, it is a kind of reality tv show set in a Benedictine monastery. It documents the personal and communal journeys of five women with diverse backgrounds, ages and personal stories as they undertake 33 days of life as Benedictine nuns. I found it quite profound. Most notably, the way in which each of the women encountered God through their experience. They found the vigils hard and inflexible, constant, tiring. But each experienced breakthroughs in their lives, release from past hurts, and greater attunement with the physical and spiritual. As someone who wrestles with institutionalized imaginations (do those two words go together?!) of church and faith, the impact of the experience was surprising. The nuns were not “seeker sensitive”. They were not “cool”. They did not use the latest technology to create amazing experiences of worship. There was no Hillsong, Vineyard, or anything likely to have been written in the last century or so. They did not take the women to the pub to “hang out” and discuss spirituality. Instead they met for prayer seven times a day commencing at 4.30am, worked in the garden, earned their keep, practiced silence (even when eating). For the nuns, the most important thing they could do was pray for the world. To be honest, it did not look very appealing to me – at least not as a lifestyle option. Yet these women found God. And not shallowly. Deep spiritual and emotional work and healing took place. God is to be found deeply in all places. Rituals are not dead if God is honoured through and by their practice. And God can reveal himself profoundly in a way that brings life through what seems to be void of life and freedom. After watching the women’s stories unfold, it seems that one of the greatest robbers of vital spirituality is clutter in our lives. Gadgets, internet (eek on both accounts 🙂 ), addiction to the instant and immediate, crowded lives filled with stuff, events, talking, escapism, searching for meaning by filling every last moment. We do not take time often enough to listen, to be silent, to feel the cool soil in our fingers, to watch and wait for things to grow. Rather challenging.