Build a Trellis

As we continue to develop a Common Rule for our community life, Deacon Mary Baker shares from her experiences and casts a vision for how we might take up some practices in this season.


“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” (Annie Dillard, The Writing Life)

“If you are what you love, and your ultimate loves are formed and aimed by your immersion in practices, and cultural rituals, then such practices fundamentally shape what you are.” (Jamie Smith, You Are what You Love)

What I have loved about Justin Earley’s book, The Common Rule, is how he has linked, like Jamie Smith, the idea of daily habits to what it is we truly worship. His conception of a rule of life is “much less about obeying rules than finding purpose,” but rather, “taking the small patterns of love and organizing them towards a bigger goal: love God and neighbor.”

He compares a Rule of Life with a trellis. Think of how a trellis sets up a structure for a vine, which without the trellis will not be able to reach up into the sun, but continue to crawl along the ground, unmanageable, even strangling the other flowers in your garden. But set up a trellis, and that vine will flourish and bloom.

So, it is with our lives. Again, Annie Dillard, writes: “A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days.”

We need to establish spiritual rhythms to catch our days, to allow God’s love to shape our days. To move from chaos to love. This is simply what a rule is. The Latin root in fact refers to a “guidepost” or “railing” not a set of rules that often will become simply guilt-producing obligations in our minds.

We already have habitual liturgies we perform each day, of course, that is Smith’s point. Earley speaks very openly and plainly about his own life in the Introduction to his book, examining how his daily liturgies really spoke to his own self-perception and desires. Example: Looking at his emails before praying each morning reflected his need to stay well-regarded at his office, by not missing a quick response to what he considered an important e-mail.

We are asking all of you in this time of Coronatide to build a trellis to hang your life upon. We are in the midst of chaos and uncertainty on so many levels. The simple habit of praying three times a day will begin to bring shape to your life. Begin in the morning by framing your day in the awareness of God’s presence with you, at noon continue to dedicate that day to God, and end the day resting in his love. It might be hard in the beginning to stick to it. Set timers on your phone with the word “Pause.”  Remember this is a practice, in other words, it takes practicing.

We have provided three Collects from our own ACNA BCP to guide you.

If you are interested in actually reading Earley’s book together with others in our community starting this week, we will be posting weekly portions of the book to read, and/or six-minute videos to watch, and questions to ponder.  Check back here.