Earlsfield Friary – a story of change in an urban world
Ten minutes by train from the heart of London lies Earlsfield, a mecca for those avoiding the long commute to London for jobs, a place to many indigenous Londoners born and raised, and a haven for those seeking asylum from the horror of other parts of the world. With Clapham Junction, the busiest intersection station in Europe, one stop up, the area reflects this rootless spirit of passing through, thus ever struggling to find a heart.
Now in a number of those streets a group has gathered to find a place called home in this transient environment, to rewrite the story for a better tomorrow. Four families occupy space within a short distance of each other with the purpose of exploring collaborative life – friary life. These families took time initially to dialogue about Friary life and then make some commitments to each other about establishing a street community – four households with one cooperative purpose.
It began when Johnny, Lisa and Bruno Sertin with Leo Patching, came to Earlsfield in 2006 to explore a vision of mission through community and shared life. They were looking for an alternative economy to the social and ecclesial norms. Initially starting in one home with shared living, the friary has grown to the four households living in the one neighborhood. In the early stages of their journey the Sertins were adopted as partners with CMS, a society with a deep and rich history of mission now looking to refound it’s vision for mission in Britain. Steered initially by the insights of Micha Jazz they discussed four mutuality’s of sharing Friary life. These are a mutual Christ, a mutual rhythm, offering mutual support, and engaging in a mutual mission within the immediate neighborhood.
Over the years, through an annual ritual of reflecting together, a vision of community life and some key practices have emerged: Their quest is ‘to discover ‘home’ through faith, relationships, and the world. Also to foster this space for others to share in.’ They do by curating events in the neighborhood to encourage common ground, staging local installations to nurture an alternative to the norm. Dramatizing stories that incubate connection with God’s big story of ‘creation healed’ and hosting festivities that incite Grace!
The challenge of such a vista is finding a joined up way of enacting this whilst being in a season of life where children are the zenith of our vision! Coming from a history of approaches to family life and faith ranging from seen and not heard, all inclusive to all excluded, or subcontracted to schools be that state, Sunday or home, the community did not want to embark on a journey that did not intentionally integrate the well being and spirituality of their children at the heart of their community, Equally they came to realize their own well being as adults was paramount to this idea. They explored ways to let children share the mutual life. They explored daily, monthly and festive rhythms to their life and found ways to bridge age, time and space whilst valuing the diversity of each person’s respective journey no matter what age. They discovered common ground in the importance of ritual, place, and food in their spirituality and several observations emerged on presence and faith in a contemporary world: They call these the “God is found” liturgy.
On any given day you will find them digging in the earth, eating at a table, chatting in the proverbial playground, at the school gate, planting in wasted space, walking up the hill, rooting through charity shops, craft making, imagining change, drinking at parties, laughing with joy, weeping with loss, embracing the dirty, spontaneously arranging pop up stalls, or causing dissent at the local school or council! They have found a home, they continue to make home and the sign on the porch says ‘welcome’.