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Swedish priest to lead new Community at Lambeth

14 November 2014


"Captivated": the Revd Anders Litzell, who has been announced as the first Prior of the Community of St Anselm, at Lambeth Palace

"Captivated": the Revd Anders Litzell, who has been announced as the first Prior of the Community of St Anselm, at Lambeth Palace

"I LIKE to think of it as a rebottling of three very fine vintage clarets. It's absolutely new - and there is nothing new about it at all."

This is how a new monastic "gap year" at Lambeth Palace, the Community of St Anselm, is described by the man who will be its first Prior, the Revd Anders Litzell.

Mr Litzell, who currently works at St George the Martyr, Queen Square, Holborn, was speaking at the Palace on Monday after it was announced that he would lead the Archbishop of Canterbury's "radical" community of 16 men and women, who will spend a year praying, learning, and serving at the Palace.

Mr Litzell said that he was "captivated" by the way the Community is simultaneously a fresh expression of the religious life, and draws on ancient spirituality - the three pillars, or clarets, of St Benedict, St Francis, and St Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Society of Jesus.

The community is named in honour of St Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 to 1109, who was professed as a Benedictine monk at the age of 27.

"St Benedict said something quite spectacular in his Rule: 'I offer this way of life for those who would prefer nothing whatsoever to Christ,'" Mr Litzell said. "Whichever part of history you want to dip into, you will find something of this same spirit expressed."

The Archbishop's Chaplain, the Revd Dr Jo Wells, said that the aim was for the community not to be a purely Anglican or British endeavour, but a global initiative. From September next year, there would be 16 resident and 40 non-resident members of the community. Fifty per cent would be women, one third would be non-Anglicans, and one third would come from the Global South, Dr Wells said.

"That gets into a radical social mix as well as a radical denominational mix. Pentecostal all the way across to Orthodox would be extremely welcome and hoped for," she said.

Mr Litzell fits into this global vision: he is Swedish, studied in the United States, and spent time in South Africa before being ordained in the Church of England in 2012. His wife, Kate, a South African, and their two young children will also be living at Lambeth Palace, alongside the 16 residential members of the community.

Last month, Archbishop Welby told a banking conference in the US that he hoped those who were members of the Community of St Anselm would use their experiences to make them better bankers, bishops, or presidents (News, 17 October).

Dr Wells said that, while the details had yet to be fully worked out, an ordinary day in the community would include time of personal and corporate prayer, lectures, group study, and volunteering with charities and churches outside the Palace.

This new venture is open only to those aged between 20 and 35. Dr Wells said that this was to "capitalise on that young energy that is keen to change the world, and believes it can, before they are crushed by the cynicism of a mortgage or whatever it is".

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