The community will initially have 16 resident and 40
non-resident members. The Archbishop of Canterbury wants
to equip and empower young people between 20 and 35 to live a life
wholly devoted to Christ while engaging deeply with the issues of
It seemed appropriate to name the community after an
Archbishop of Canterbury, as he was a Benedictine monk,
very influential in engaging with the culture and intellectual
climate of his time, though he managed to get on the wrong side of
the king of his time.
St Anselm's Community will be open to all
Christians. We expect one third to a half of them to be
non-Anglicans. It's open to applicants from the entire world, and
we hope that one third to a half will be from the Majority
It will be open to men and women, singles and
marrieds, so long as both partners participate and they have no
dependent children. We just can't accommodate families in
residence, and we think, for non-residents, it's a commitment which
is going to take a lot of time and effort. It's very important that
both parties can commit equally.
I have a one-year old and a three-year old
myself, and there are occasions in which only one of us
can participate in equal terms so it's about ensuring that both
spouses can participate in what's going on.
My wife and I are part of the framework that creates
stability for the community. Membership lasts for one
academic year; so we're rather like the staff who work in a
The life will be Benedictine, because it's
shaped by a rule of life: Franciscan in seeking God through service
to the poor, and Ignatian in terms of spirituality and
self-examination. We're drawing from the deep wells of St Benedict
for our understanding of community life. We're seeking to love
Christ in the poor and needy like St Francis, and to develop a rich
internal life of communication with God in the ways of St
Archbishop Justin wishes to establish prayer,
service, and a shared life at the heart of his ministry in Lambeth
Palace. The community also touches all his three priority areas:
most obviously, renewal of prayer and the religious life, but also
reconciliation - because of our learning to live together with
very, very different backgrounds and opinions - as well as
evangelism and witness in our service to the poor "outside the
walls", witnessing to the love of Christ. The Archbishop is also
deeply committed to offering opportunities for young men and women
to be formed in habits of virtue for the sake of transforming the
secular working world.
All the members will live under a common rule,
with deep commitment to one another under God. Relationships will
be given priority. The residents will learn to live in community
and shared accommodation, choosing to turn to one another daily in
love and forgiveness. The non-residents will learn to integrate
their work situations, time commitments, social interactions, and
ethical dilemmas of everyday London life with an inward journey of
silence, regular prayer, and practical service to the poor.
It's possible that something more resembling an
oblature will de-velop among those who have finished their
year in the community. We'll explore what shape that could take
during the course of the first year together.
Absolutely it could be tried elsewhere. I've
already had several exploratory conversations with people from
various corners of the earth who want to observe closely what is
taking place at Lambeth Palace, given how this harmonises with
other ventures in which the Spirit seems to be at work. If we can
share our journey, and shorten the distance for others to get off
the ground with whatever the Lord has put on their hearts, then
we'll do so gladly.
We're enormously blessed by the deep commitment and
partnership from the Chemin Neuf community. It's a Roman
Catholic community with an ecumenical vocation, resident at Lambeth
Palace for the past year, and with vast experience of Christian
formation elsewhere. A senior Chemin Neuf member, Sister Sonia
Béranger CCN, who ran similar programmes for young people in other
countries, was commissioned as director of community at the same
time as I was licensed as Prior last month. At the same time, this
is really a new and ground-breaking venture.
I can't claim to have entered the monastic
life. I'm a Church of England priest with a wife and two
children. But I've had a long-standing admiration for the Rule of
St Benedict, which I have studied fairly extensively. One of my
heart's deepest desires and joys is to nurture young people taking
new steps in their faith, to explore new ground, to find new
riches, to experience the presence of God more fully in their
lives, and learn to recognise it in the lives of others.
That's the essence of "the school of the Lord's
service", as St Benedict calls a monastery, and that's
abso-lutely central to the Community of St Anselm.
Currently the bulk of my attention is directed
to the applications process, which opened last Friday. I'm also
thinking about our Rule of Life. We are giving detailed shape to
the life of the community - our prayer patterns, retreats, service
in the community, and our study programme. . . The list is
Interest has been fantastic. There were 8500
visitors to the website just on Friday, and 170 have already
started their applications.
People have been asking why the age limit? On
the one hand, we have to limit the interest somehow; so there's a
practical reason. But the Archbishop hopes to reintroduce prayer
and community service to a generation who, by and large, have not
had that teaching, and are at the beginning of their working
The question of my home is an interesting one.
I have so many now: in Sweden, where I was born; in South Africa;
with friends scattered here and there who can make me feel at home.
It's a gift and a challenge to have many homes, and have your heart
in many places and with many people.
I grew up in Sollentuna, about 20 minutes north
of Stockholm, where my parents, Michael and Berit, and my sister,
Ida, still live. That's where I returned after my stint working in
the United States, and found myself in the Lutheran Church of
But my home is with my little family: Kate, and
our children, Henry and Isabella. Devoting myself to that home is
absolutely central for our ability to open our home for others,
extending hospitality, and facilitating a home for people who, like
we just did, are coming new to Lambeth Palace.
I've always known God existed - a blessing I
received from growing up in a Christian home. I've had my fair
share of struggles, but my questions were always analogous to:
"Does God hear me, or listen, or care when I pray?" as opposed to
"Is there a God who could hear me?"
My first really large change was when I got
drawn into Episcopalian worship while in the United States. For a
Swedish Pentecostal kid, that was as alien as anything could be. I
grew to love it, especially the rootedness and connectedness I
experienced with the faith of those who had gone before throughout
I love skiing, music listening to or making),
playing with my children, and taking my wife out for dinner - a
rare luxury. I've sung in choirs for 25 years, and have a classical
choral schooling, but I also play electric bass. What the music of
the community will be like is most fascinating to me.
I think my favourite sound has to be
I don't remember what made me angry last: not
because it was that long ago, but because it will have been
something utterly mundane and everyday that made me lose it with my
wife, Kate. It's almost always the everyday stuff that causes the
fights when people live in a shared life, whether in a religious
community or as a family.
I think I am a happy person as a baseline. I
wouldn't always have said that - and what varies is my level of
awareness of all the joy in my life.
"Your Kingdom come, your will be done" sums up
quite a lot. It is frequently coupled with "Lord, have mercy,"
because my life is not yet fully conformed to that of Christ.
I have two children under four; so choosing a
companion with whom I'd choose to be locked in a church is easy: my
wife, Kate, any day of the week. A few hours to talk and pray
together - it sounds wonderful. May I presume that we
providentially handed the children to a trusted person before we
got accidentally locked in? It might be a tad stressful
The Revd Anders Litzell was talking to Terence Handley
Applications are now open to join the Community of St Anselm in
September 2015. To apply visit www.stanselm.org.uk