THE Archbishop of Canterbury held a service of commitment and celebration on Friday for a group of young Christians preparing to embark on a year in monastic life.
Family, friends, and clergy filled the chapel at Lambeth Palace to witness the robing of 36 young people from around the world who have decided to dedicate “a year in God’s time” within the newly created Community of St Anselm.
The community was the initiative of Archbishop Welby, in order to encourage Christians between the ages of 20 and 35 to experience a “radical Jesus-centred community” of prayer and service. Hundreds applied for the chance to experience an enclosed life, and had to be whittled down by assessments and interviews.
In his welcome, Archbishop Welby commended the “ceremonial commitment” of the successful candidates, and their dedication to the “renewal of religious and spiritual life” in the Church.
A group of 16 will live within the palace walls and commit themselves to a schedule of prayer, Bible study, lectures, exercise, and service to those in need. They will be housed in four of the staff cottages at Lambeth, and will be expected to prepare and eat meals together.
The remaining 20 non-resident members will follow many of the same disciplines, but will work and live at home while committing their free time to the Community.
The Prior to the Community, the Revd Anders Litzel, described the embarkation as a “ten-month boot-camp in religious community”, which will “shake their whole being” into a life inspired by the Benedictine monks in the sixth century.
Of the 36, five applied from the financial sector. Peter Angelica, aged 23, had travelled from New York, where he was an analyst for an investment bank.
Joshua Brocklesby used to work in advertising. “From the moment I saw that first tweet, I knew that God wanted me to apply, though I didn’t know why,” he told Radio 4.
In his address, Archbishop Welby praised the members for choosing to serve God, with a reminder that they were also chosen by God, and must “recognise the authority” of his choice. “In this community we offer the invitation to grace. And the vows that you as members of this community [take] are only able to be fulfilled with grace.”
Each member was called on by the Archbishop, and vowed to, follow a way of life based on sanctification, sacrifice, trust, discipline, and reconciliation. They were then robed in the same white habit worn by the Archbishop, with a red cross on the hood. They were also presented with a cross, to wear as a reminder of their commitment.
Music and verse from a variety of traditions was chosen for the service, including an anthem written by a Norwegian composer to words that translate as “Where there is charity and love, God is there”.