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Individual autonomy is not the message of Christian hermits and solitaries

by
07 August 2015

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From Mr James Ashdown

Sir, — The Revd Dr Hugh Rayment-Pickard’s article on the limits of individual autonomy (Comment, 17 July) contains much truth; but he also perpetuates myths about the hermit vocation which has caused many churches to be suspicious of hermits and resist their calling.

Any consideration of the real life of hermits quickly demonstrates that hermits, of all people, are dependent on a supportive community in order to live out their vocation: they need to be resourced and protected, and they are only then able to nurture their gift and offer it to the world.

Yes, some so-called hermits are simply recluses wanting to escape from the world; but a truly Christian vision of the vocation of the hermit is dependent upon and nurturing of community. It is, perhaps,the very individualised and fragmented world that Dr Rayment-Pickard is concerned about which is most in need of the kind of communities that can nurture and support the vocation of the hermit. The hermit in community teaches us that we are all dependent on one another, because of both the prayer in which their life must be rooted, and the mundane practicalities of their life.

JAMES ASHDOWN
Sparkes Farm Cottage
Thorpe Morieux
Suffolk IP30 0NT

 

From Dr Una Kroll

Sir, — As an urban solitary for the past 22 years, I must take issue with Dr Rayment-Pickard. I agree with some of the things he says, but I need to remind him that, fromthe third century onwards, hermits and solitaries have sought solitudeto engage there in prayer and resistance to the evils that beset their beloved societies. They remain part of the society, not distant from it.

A modern urban hermit or solitary stands in that tradition of the Desert Fathers, but the exigencies of 21st-century life demand that, as we eschew some of the pleasures and responsibilities of community life,we are aware of what is going on in our world. Our freedoms, like all freedoms, are relative,and I would agree with Hegel, and with Dr Rayment-Pickard, that “every human being is inextricably linked with every otherthrough our common history.”

I am not a hermit. I am a solitary who lives alone, in vows and a rule of life for which I am accountable to my guardian bishop.I work.I pay rent and taxes. I live like my neighbours. I am modern enough to engage in computing and networking in a restricted way.I would ask Dr Rayment-Pickard, please, to include usin his prayers.

UNA KROLL
6 Hamilton House
57 Hanson Street
Bury, Lancs BL9 6LR

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