How Am I Ruined for life?

by Matt Carriker I was incredibly grateful to spend much-needed time with a like-minded spiritual community at Agape’s hermitage this July.  I serve as the Protestant Chaplain at Brandeis University and as Pastor at Agape Spiritual Community in Waltham (similar vision to Agape’s though different in expression).  Life in ministry and chaplaincy is demanding.  Our culture is so go-go-go and do-do-do that time for contemplation and community usually takes a back seat.  Having been to Agape for Francis Days, I came in 2017 with a group of Brandeis students on a “Rural Immersion” trip, but this was the first time I came just for me. My experience was soul-filling–silence, solitude, writing, and meditation at the hermitage; collective prayer and reflection in the mornings, noontime, and in the evenings with the community.  I prayed with my hands and feet in the mornings in the garden, followed by spiritually rich and beautiful meal time conversation about things that matter with other residents. Agape makes my three years with the Jesuit Volunteers in Belize and Haiti between 2001 and 2004 come alive as at that time, I  committed to live the four JV components: community, simplicity, spirituality, and social justice, with the hope these components will become a way of life. (Hence the JV motto “ruined for life”) After returning home from JV fourteen years ago, I remember how difficult it was to integrate these principles into daily life.   Our culture values rugged individualism over community (which too often manifests as isolation), and material accumulation as the path to happiness.  We give lip service to faith and social justice, but living deeply is another matter altogether. Every time I visit Agape, I see people walking the talk, albeit in their perfectly imperfect way. As anyone who has lived in intentional community knows, no community is or will be perfect. For me to be in the arena of people doing this work full-time is enormous. People in our culture prefer writing checks and to offer support in less committed ways.  What we see at Agape is devotion to a way of life rooted in community, simplicity, faith, and justice, a sustainable, nonviolent, intentional community.  Agape’s life and vision cause me to ask: How am I creating spiritual community where I am?  How am I living out my faith in contemplative practices and nonviolent action for justice where I am?  Agape’s powerful, life-giving, grace-filled witness deepens me. How am I ruined for life?  How am I working for justice, and also taking time in prayer, meditation, and spiritual practice to connect with the Spirit who gives me life and strength for the journey?  Thank you Agape for welcoming me into a time of rest, community, and spiritual practice; most of all, for co-creating a model of what it looks like to live out the Kingdom of God in this time, place and culture. Rev. Matt Carriker; Pastor, Agape Spiritual Community Waltham Protestant Chaplain, Brandeis University.