October 7, 2015

The Family Abbey

I recently attended a wedding reception at an old historic vineyard and orchard. It was wonderful to see the last child wed of friends we originally met in Michigan 35 years ago.

I found that walking around the beautiful grounds of this lovely historic farm and vineyard was a refreshing experience. While strolling and enjoying the nooks and crannies I discovered a little sign that brought a new concept to mind and resonated with my heart:

"A family abbey is a patriarchal estate with all basic functions performed by its residents. The word "abbey," comes from "abba," meaning father.  Abbeys are not only made up of extended blood relatives, but those desiring to attach themselves to the manor. They are led and guided by the a patriarch-- the lord of the manor-- who seeks to cultivate the welfare of all who reside and visit.

Modeled in ancient Celtic history but quite different from later religious, monastic communities-- family abbeys are centers of craft and trade, worship and evangelism, advice and guidance, teaching and training, hospitality and rest, love and healing, and a host of other needs and ministries-- spiritual, physical, emotional, social, economic, etc. These domestic commonwealths are havens of refuge and peace, not only to family and friends, but strangers and inquirers as well."

I googled this quote when I got home and found it on the Fellowship Inn site. A family abbey is a lovely idea. I have always dreamed of something like this, only I did not have a name for it until now!

A domestic commonwealth being a refuge is powerful. Our homes should be a refuge from the storms of the world. I can still remember nine summers ago going to my mother-in-law's to study and finish readings for a course I was taking. She opened the door and said, "Welcome to Refuge Haven." I have tried to create that here, ever since.

So, the Family Abbey is a Celtic tradition? I have Celtic blood! So, this is in my DNA!

A Family Abby is also very Genesis (after they left the Garden), by the sweat of thy brow!

The ideas of a Family Abbey and a domestic commonwealth are so Georgic! What is Georgic?


The word “georgics” comes from the Greek* “geo,” meaning earth, and “ergon,” meaning work. The literal translation, therefore, means to work, or farm the earth.

Translated to fit modern times, the essence of the word is “ownership.”

America was built on the backs of free and independent owners. The more owners we have, the more freedom we enjoy, and vice versa.

Quote from Oliver Demille "Four Lost American Ideals." 

The Georgics come to us by the way of the poet Virgil. The framers of this nation were well acquainted with Virgil's writings on the Georgics. Through the ministry of the soil our American Founders learned valuable lessons of Nature and Nature's God. Though coming from many denominations they revered God, the Bible, independence, and hard work.

In our modern times we can be owners and have the owner's mindset without living on a farm. Yet, lessons of the soil, orcharding, and other aspects of farming can be accomplished through urban farming, can teach us much. From the high rise roof top to the suburban back yard, we can create our little Family Abbeys as refuges from the storms, with fertile soil that can refine the soul. Our homes can be ministries to those who live there and those who that gather there.

Our homeschool and family life have been very much the Family Abbey, with all its dimensions, and all its ministries! We continue to work to create this in our life.

What elements of the Family Abbey, Domestic Commonwealth, and Georgic resonate with you?

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