Yesterday, the feast of All Benedictine Saints, was our annual Oblates’ Day at the monastery. A few of us gathered for Mass at Belmont then returned to the monastery at Howton Grove for a day of prayer and reflection during the course of which we had the joy of affiliating Margaret to our community. She lives in Canada so we did so online, with participation from oblates in the U.S.A. and elsewhere in the U.K. There were a few glitches caused by our not all having the latest version of the necessary software, but on the whole it worked well, enabling us to see, hear and interact with one another in real time.
During the subsequent oblate chapter meeting, we discussed the way in which oblates and home community interact. One of the problems we have, as a very small community, is meeting the demands on our time. We do our best, but we just aren’t able to do everything we’d like, and people are sometimes very disappointed. We therefore discussed what we can give our oblates, and were surprised and pleased to hear that they also wanted to discuss what they, as oblates, can give to the community. It was encouraging to hear our oblates say that, just as much of our hospitality is conducted online, so much of our oblate interaction needs to be online, too. There was ready acceptance that the amount of input we provide by means of this blog, Facebook, podcasts and so on made it unnecessary, indeed impossible, for us to think in terms of regular oblate newsletters and the like. However, we shall be initiating a regular series of online meetings (using group video-call software such as Skype) during which we hope that some of the input will be contributed by the oblates themselves (after all, who wants to hear Digitalnun and Quietnun doing all the talking?). Roughly half our oblates live in Canada, the U.S.A., France and Italy, so negotiating suitable times will be a challenge (but, of course the software exists to help with that, too). I shall be emailing all the oblates who weren’t present with details.
All in all, it was a most enjoyable day, much of it spent in front of the logburner in the calefactory — a novel experience for our oblates, who are used to the rather colder and damper conditions at Hendred. We ended with the Oblate Dinner. Some things cannot be transferred to virtual space, and roast lamb, I’m happy to say, is one of them.