Some Friends have recently quizzed me about the name change from Lee Abbey Households to Lee Abbey Small Missional Communities, so I thought it might be helpful to explain why the Board has made this decision. It is not that we have a significantly different vision or identity; we remain committed to the concept of shared Community living implied by the title ‘Households’. However, whilst we are very happy for people to continue to use this name, it has become increasingly clear that changing our name makes sense for four significant reasons.
Firstly, the new name is now a familiar concept in missional thinking
If you type ‘small missional communities’ into your internet browser it comes up with hundreds of resources, organisations and people all engaging in similar projects across the UK and overseas. It is very exciting that, in recent times, there has been a massive interest in this model of incarnational mission and so a common title has emerged to describe it. I believe Lee Abbey has a lot to contribute to these conversations and changing our name helps us to engage with the current thinking and theology. In your internet search, Lee Abbey is now the fifth website listed. If we are to inspire people to join the households today, then we need to engage with this generation in a contemporary way.
Secondly, the new name helps us to connect with people outside Lee Abbey
As I travel around the country, talking to people about Lee Abbey, one of the challenges is using appropriate language to communicate clearly what we are about. Whilst people generally understand the concept of a Christian Community running a conference centre or student residence, developments describing the households has always been more complicated. Using the phrase ‘Small Communities Missional Communities’ doesn’t stop the need to explain our distinctive vision and values, but it does open the way for clearer dialogue, especially with those who are familiar with the term. And that’s partly because …
Thirdly, the new name helps us to communicate what we are about
Under the title Small Missional Communities we simply seek to do ‘what it says on the tin’. We are small, a few called to learn and live at the grassroots, being local and humble, contextual and catalytic. Like a seed of the Kingdom of God packed full of potential, we want to be a spark for change, a unit of love ready to multiply hope. We are missional, moving into the neighbourhood and getting involved with what God is already doing. It is frontline, seeing the first fruit of transformation as people discover new life through fleshed out faith. We are Communities who are intentional about being and making disciples through the costly adventure of shared living, providing generous space for people to be and to do. We still hold to being Communities of HOPE – Hospitality Openness, Prayer and Engagement.
Lastly, the new name makes more sense when working in partnership
Last year, many people have commented to me how excited they were about the Community in Acton Vale becoming part of the Lee Abbey family and yet the title ‘Household’ does not fit with their model of shared living. This is not least because the flats on the estate are so small. Recently, I was also chatting to the leader of another small Community also engaged in frontline mission. Christ is being shared through genuine hospitality and relationships, but their life together is based around a café rather than one or more households. If God is calling us to develop stronger links and partnerships with such projects, then we believe our new name gives us greater flexibility for that. As we change the name of Households to Small Missional Communities, please pray with us that we may we continue to be the aroma of Christ that some might be saved. After all, as the famous saying goes, ‘What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.’