Being a founding member of a Christian covenant community was hard, but exciting work. We had to discern if this was a call from the Spirit, what Christian values we aspired to, and whether we could physically move closer to each other. We looked at different possibilities for shared accommodation, such as a historic hotel for sale, but recognised this would be too intrusive a lifestyle for our families.
Most of us had met through the Catholic Charismatic Prayer movement - also strongly ecumenical in spirit, which fosters a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and empowerment by God through the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. This acceptance of Jesus Christ as central to our lives galvanised us to form a Christian family group, which then evolved into the forming of a community of believers.
While we were mostly Catholic, some were not, so at the outset we defined ourselves as ‘Catholic in nature, ecumenical in spirit.’ We were self-activated. Community was a strong movement across the country back then, not all of them spiritually based. We visited other Christian communities springing up across Australia, and the United States, some of which still exist.
We had a core membership of four families, and wider involvement with many others who cherished their community attachment. Seventeen children were in the core community.
In the early days we had two Sisters of Mercy involved, who loved us and we loved them. I recall Sr Mary Thompson introducing us to the Myer-Briggs personality program, which gave us a deeper acceptance of each other and recognition of the other’s gifts.
To work towards community formation, we went away as a family group for one weekend a month over two years, before forming our street community. We organised services full of joy and creativity and decided our community would be committed to promoting Christian family values.
Our four base families who signed a Covenant - ( ideals we wished to live by ) - chose to live closer to each other. Two of our families sold their homes and moved to Kotara. We gave ourselves a name - ‘The Abundant Life community'.
We met frequently, sharing many joyous occasions and some sacramental life within our community. We washed each other's feet, including that of the children. We introduced Sabbath meals to our families where each had a part to play. We celebrated with food, drama, and music. We studied the Word of God. We went away on holidays together. We went to Mass, and assisted in Church activities. We helped each other in practical ways.
Decisions affecting communal life were made by consensus, and leadership rotated each year. We shared some goods in common.
We had the blessing of our Parish Priest - Father Paddy Flynn. He told us once that we were known in the Parish as ‘the God Squad.’ I think we took that as a compliment, because he also told us that he wished more of the Parish would do as we had done.
When our community broke up many years later, I was so forlorn, so lost. It broke up for human reasons, and in retrospect, we may have survived with an outside wise influence to guide us along - but I will never regret what we attempted to achieve.
My hope is that with all the work being done by the Synod, they will not underestimate how powerful small groups can regenerate growth in our Church - and how important it is to support such groups with wise guidance, and access to relevant training, teaching, and material resources where possible.
But above all, the call of Pope Francis, to embrace Jesus Christ as our Saviour, Friend, Healer, and Giver of Life, is a paramount, personal and communal call.
We rely on our Bishop, priests, nuns, employees and lay people, that with the help of the Spirit, his call will become a reality in our lives.
- Pam Tierney