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New Monasticism: A desire to go deeper is met

28 September 2018

Hattie Williams explores new monasticism, and the dynamics that power it

lambeth palace

Members of the Community of St Anselm in the Crypt Chapel at Lambeth Palace

Members of the Community of St Anselm in the Crypt Chapel at Lambeth Palace

FOUR fresh-faced former members of the Community of St Anselm sit around cups of tea and a plate of biscuits in true Anglican fashion: we might be about to conduct a Bible study.

Instead, we are discussing what it was like to live, pray, and study together within the walls of Lambeth Palace during “A Year in God’s Time”: the strapline of the community, which was founded by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2015 to enable 15 full-time residents and a further 13 non-residents to experience a year of shared life which would “shape the rest of their lives” (News, September 2015).

Philip, who was born in England and raised as an Anglican in Brussels, came to St Anselm as a full-time resident, straight after university, in its foundation year. “It was really intense, really busy in a way perhaps that none of us had quite expected,” he says.

We are sitting in a kitchen in one of the converted flats at the back of the Palace where residents of the community live together — not quite for a year, but for ten months. Philip and his fellow former members have returned to the Palace for a week-long retreat: a reunion of sorts.

This includes non-residents, such as Laura, who kept a full-time job at a university in London while being a member. She would eat and pray with the community every Monday, she tells me, have “spiritual counselling” one Saturday a month, and attend the three week-long retreats throughout the year: a total commitment of about 400 hours.

CHURCH TIMESFormer residential and non-residential members of St Anselm, Philip, Jason, Laura, and Henry, gather for a reunion at Lambeth Palace, last month

It was a “tough” balance, she recalls. “I found that to stay actively involved in my local church and do St Anselm meant that there wasn’t a huge margin of error in the rest of life; but that was part of a sacrifice for the year.

“There is a lot of teaching about discernment. I was happy with where I was, I wasn’t really questioning that at the time, but, over the course, you learn about surrender: saying ‘Yes’ to God.

“My faith grew a huge amount, and I felt confident to say ‘Yes, God.’”

Explaining this commitment to others was difficult, Henry, a non-resident from the 2016 intake, says. He is Swedish, a Lutheran, and worked in the City.

“People at work were quite intrigued that you have become a part-time monk for some time. It was a good conversation-starter. It was challenging to explain. The word ‘monk’ was something most people could understand at least. And even silent retreats are fashionable these days.”

What was it like to live like monks, to keep silence, wear the white-hooded robes, pray for hours, and serve the wider community?

“It gave me structure,” Jason says; he was also a resident of the community in 2015, straight out of studying theology at university. “The day is structured around three main elements: study, service, and prayer. You get up, breakfast in silence, have corporate Bible-reading, morning prayer, an hour of personal prayer, then study, joint eucharist, a break, and more study.”

Thursdays and Fridays were dedicated to serving charities around London; Saturday mornings were for sport and cleaning; and the rest of the weekend was free time, albeit with both financial and geographical limitations, he explains.

CHURCH TIMESThe cottages at Lambeth Palace, where the residential members of St Anselm live for ten months

For Philip, the practicality of prayer was a key experience. “I saw a video from Rowan Williams which begins by saying that prayer is something we, as Christians, find awkward,” he says.

“We don’t really know why or what it is, but the year of structured time of prayer in community turns it into something very practical, something that centres your life, and makes sense of the rest of your experience. In a way, that is what the whole Church is struggling with: what Sunday means, Monday to Saturday.”

He recalls: “You could be having a dreadful time one day, be really angry at someone for some unfathomably little reason — it is amazing the things that get on your nerves in a space like that — but the bell would ring, and you would have to stop that and go down and pray together. And that could be a real challenge.”

St Anselm’s is an ecumenical community; so acknowledging, understanding, and living in community with people of other denominations and cultures is a steep learning-curve.

“I didn’t realise that Catholics were real Christians before I joined St Anselm,” Laura says, to roars of laughter from the table. “I thought I was so open-minded, but I had never lived in such close-proximity — I didn’t have close friends who were Catholics.

“I felt that there was a lot of licence to ask questions of other people in the safety of community: ‘Why do you do this. Why do you do that?’”

Philip agrees: “All of us had to confront the prejudices we weren’t aware of: the first time I heard worship singing in tongues, that really freaked me.”

Is living in community like school in that respect?

“No, it is quite different,” Jason, who grew up in a Free Methodist family in Preston, says. “Part of it is because you are committing to a rule of life, to a similar journey, whereas other communities, school, college — although you are a community, you are not really signed up to following one way of being together.”

CHURCH TIMESThe Dean of St Anselm, the Revd Simon Lewis, outside the cottages at Lambeth Palace

THE rule of life for the Community of St Anselm is centred on choice: choosing for that time to “hold nothing back” from God, to choose community over individuals, including familial and romantic relationships, or choosing not to develop existing romantic relationships: for example, married couples who join the community are not permitted to have children.

The Dean of St Anselm’s, the Revd Simon Lewis, who lives in one of the Palace cottages with his wife and two young children, explains: “Our rule is quite abstract compared with, say, the Rule of St Benedict, which is quite concrete with details of daily life: ours is concepts.

“It hasn’t changed yet, but it will probably change organically over the course of the life of the community, and it may become more concrete in some respects; but it is there to shape our community life, and it has been a helpful presence.”

The rule states that the community must be disciplined in prayer, worship, study, silence, and service to the wider community, besides being prepared to seek reconciliation and unity when personalities clash and feelings are hurt.

The 15th and final rule of the community is to choose to “descend” from vanity and ambition. It reads: “We choose to descend, we give up self-promotion and preferment. We choose to descend in society when the world is determined to climb.

“We follow Jesus into suffering, and we bring risen life as we go. Jesus has taught us that his glory is found by humbling ourselves, because the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of humans.”

Sister Asia Sikorska, a Roman Catholic consecrated sister from Poland, is the sub-prior of St Anselm’s, and a member of the Chemin Neuf community, which sits alongside it. Chemin Neuf has celibate and non-celibate members, including married couples, who live within the Palace.

Her job this past year has been to “take care of the spiritual life” of the two communities through retreats and prayer. “It is important to go through the rule of life together, and to come back to it,” she says. “What does it mean in our concrete, everyday life?”

Those who serve the community are not expected to live by the rule, however, only in the spirit of it, Mr Lewis says. “We cannot be vowed members in the same way; for instance, they commit not to have relationships beyond their current situation.”

Does this cause tensions among a mixed-sex group of like-minded young adults? “The temptations are there,” he says.

This does not apply only to romantic relationships. Members must commit themselves to favouring community over all “exclusive” relationships, including friendships.

“Sometimes, that is about restraining yourself about romantic relationships; but it might also be about choosing sport when you don’t really like sport, or, if you’re an introvert, making yourself available to others at key times.

“Somehow, by making it part of a bigger picture, that has been much more helpful, rather than saying, ‘No, you cannot do this,’ like the chastising parent.”

CHURCH TIMESThe Dean of St Anselm, the Revd Simon Lewis, outside the cottages at Lambeth Palace

THE rule, the charism, and the community: these were the three common reasons that people turned to the religious life, the Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, told the General Synod in February (News, 16 February).

Dr Walker, who chairs the House of Bishops’ Advisory Council for Relations between Bishops and Religious Communities, described how, aged 18, he went to a church “served by three men in brown robes”. From that moment on, he said, “the Franciscan movement wouldn’t let me go.”

He was introducing a new canon to provide a framework for religious communities, which was carried by the Synod in July (News, 13 July). The need was urgent, he said, because of the growing number of acknowledged communities in the UK in the past two decades, and the loopholes that this expansion had left in terms of regulating the ministry of its ordained members.

This movement is commonly recognised as new monasticism.

Its growth, Dr Walker tells me, is partly down to curiosity: “Small new communities were being set up to explore what monasticism might look like within the Anglican tradition — but from the perspective of dispersed communities; so not people who were living together in a traditional convent, monastery, or friary, but people who felt a need for a stronger sense of corporate life to support their mission or calling to prayer or contemplation.”

Although, arguably, new monasticism is not new, he says: “I am a member of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis, which is an acknowledged community in the C of E set up by St Francis himself. So, the idea of living under promises of some sort, following some sort of charism, but with people marrying, having children, having jobs in wider society, has existed since the 13th century.”

CHURCH TIMESSt Anselm robes outside the chapel at Lambeth Palace

THE term “new monasticism” has been around for about a decade, Dr Walker estimates, but opinions about its helpfulness or relevance are mixed.

The Prior of the Wellspring New Monastic Community, the Revd Ian Mobsby, who is Priest-in-Charge of St Luke’s, Peckham, where Wellspring is based, was one of the pioneers of the movement (News, 2 June 2017).

“‘New monasticism’ is an awful word,” he says. “It is really unhelpful. But what is bizarre about it is that people outside of the Church understand it, but those within the Church find it very difficult. It is holding the depth of the religious tradition of the religious life on the one hand, and, on the other, trying to contextualise this in the UK. And that is not easy.”

The popularity of the religious life in a post-secular society is more easily explained, he says. “It is partly because we live in a massive consumer society: people are profoundly unhappy with the way things are in the world; so they are asking existential questions, but they are not interested in Christianity, nor do they trust the Church.

“People are not asking ‘What should we believe?’, but ‘how should we live?’, which is a much deeper question. Many people who have fallen out of the dark side of consumerism into addiction, mental-health problems, stress, and anxiety, are desperately searching for peace and some sustainable way of living, and trying to understand where God is in the middle of all this.

“This has created a culture where people feel empty.”

Dean Lewis agrees about the terminology. “I don’t think it means a great deal to us,” he says. “The Ignatian, Benedictine, and Franciscan links we have are very valuable, particularly in understanding the rhythms of our life, but there is a cautiousness, for me, in how we claim, or associate.”

Fr Erik Varden is the Abbot of Mount Saint Bernard Abbey, a Cistercian monastery in Leicestershire. There can be no authentic monastic life, he says, without three “timeless and unchanging” core elements.

“First, the monk is bound to a solitude of heart that requires him to be celibate. The covenant he makes with the Lord is an exclusive, nuptial covenant. Like marriage vows, his are binding until death. Monasticism is by consequence — as a second hallmark — a life-time commitment.

“A third characteristic is a radical renunciation of autonomy. The monk lives within a community of shared goods, where he calls nothing his own. He even makes an oblation of his will, consecrated to the Lord in an obedience that finds embodied form in human authority blessed by the Church.

“Where these elements are not present, there can be no monastic life.”

That is not to say that the monastic charism cannot extend beyond the enclosure wall, he says: it is part of the monastic mission and outreach to enable groups to gather around monasteries.

But it is inaccurate and unhelpful to call something “monastic” when it is not.

“It seems to me that little is gained by blurring categories,” he says. “To call something — an institution, an initiative — ‘monastic’ when it is not is to take away from the possibly genuine newness of what is coming into being, while eroding the specificity of a definite charism.

“What is called for, I’d suggest, is a relationship of complementarity based on conversation and friendship. From this, everyone stands to gain.”

Members of St Anselm’s, for example, stay with traditional communities in the UK and France during the year, to inform their experience.

Mr Lewis explains: “The welcome that our members receive in those communities is phenomenal, as if they are following the same path, given these people have committed to life vows for 40 or 50 years, when our guys are there for ten months — it is not comparable.

“So, the term can be helpful, but it can also impose boundaries on what God is bubbling up, which is a turn to community. Many people who wouldn’t go near the term ‘new monasticism’ are coming to us, thinking of setting up new communities.

“People are craving an understanding of authentic community life together.”

MALLING ABBEYMembers of the St Anselm’s Community with Sisters from Malling Abbey, this year

THE appeal of new monastic communities, Dr Walker says, is about “going deeper” in three ways: a deeper relationship with God as an individual and in community; belonging to a group of people more deeply than is possible in parish life; and being empowered by undertaking “risky and hard mission” with the vulnerable and exploited.

Hundreds of people apply to join the Community of St Anselm every year, but there is space for only 15 residents. This is no surprise, Mr Lewis says, given that it includes an offer to live at Lambeth Palace for a year, although there has been little growth in numbers recently.

The next group of community members are due to be welcomed at a special service of commitment today. How are the right candidates selected?

The desire to “go deeper” into spiritual life, “to discover and be challenged by it”, is a key requirement, Sister Asia says. “It is not enough to want to improve your own spiritual life. Because we are together, we will grow together in our personal relationship with God.”

Two people dropped out in the first two years of the scheme. “We do, naturally, expect things not to be right sometimes, and that is not a problem,” Mr Lewis says. The mental health of young people has been an important consideration, and the community have taken on a psychiatrist.

“Many people are coming out of their teenage and childhood years deeply damaged by factors in their life, and how we manage and work with that has been an important dimension of our community life which is growing.”

SAFEGUARDING is central to the new canon on the religious life.

It comes after the Church was heavily criticised in the Gibb report, the conclusion of an investigation into the abuse carried out by Peter Ball, some of which took place during his monastic scheme Give a Year to God, which he ran from his home in Sussex while he was Bishop of Lewes and (briefly) Gloucester, in the 1980s and ’90s (News, 27 July).

Failures of the Church, including a lack of supervision or safeguarding policy for its ministers and communities, were later identified in evidence given to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA).

The new canon attempts to list what defines a religious community, including whether the House of Bishops has declared it so. “Any group of private individuals can become a community,” Dr Walker says.

“What we are trying to focus on are communities which have official, formal status in the C of E, for safeguarding and all sorts of other reasons. We need to know what belongs to us, so we have a response.”

Generally, traditional communities are recognised; newer communities are acknowledged. For those seeking acknowledgement, the Handbook on Religious Life that has been produced every few years since the 1940s is a good starting-point, Dr Walker says. “You know it when you see it.”

But Fr Mobsby, who has contributed to the advisory panel, says that, while the new canon was commendable, “there needs to be due attention to make sure it is not a power grab by bishops. We need to ensure that we don’t constrict the religious life because of some of the safeguarding things that have gone wrong.”

Once a community has been acknowledged or recognised, the bishops do not “pore over it in detail” except to assign a bishop visitor to “exercise oversight” on behalf of the Church, Dr Walker says. “It is not as though we are looking over their shoulder at every moment.

“Clearly, we do need to make sure they are maintaining their life properly, and the visitation process should check and challenge that on at least a five-yearly basis to make sure that they are being true to their constitution, charism, and calling.”

This includes the safeguarding of both community members, such as Sisters who are frail and vulnerable, and people being served by a community, such as children or young adults.

Dr Walker continues: “There is no way that the Church can become a top-down command-and-control organisation, because that is not the way we are legally structured.

“Communities remain autonomous. If a community ceases to follow good practice as a whole (rather than a cleric or bishop who are answerable to the Clergy Discipline Measure), such as safeguarding, the only sanction we have is to cease to recognise or acknowledge it.”

MARC GASCOIGNEThe Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, and members of the Wellspring New Monastic Community at the first Rhythm of life service at St Luke’s, Peckham, last year. The community recommit to their seasonal vow annually


Wellspring New Monastic Community

THE Revd Ian Mobsby describes himself as having been a “radical atheist” until he experienced the Taizé community in France, at the age of 18. He had a “profound” conversion experience. His vocation to ministry, therefore, “came with a sensibility into faith through the importance of spiritual communities and a focus on a way of life — not just a belief, but a rhythm of practices”.

He was ordained in 2004, and served his title in St Matthew’s, Westminster, where he was one of the founding members of the Moot Community, one of the earliest new monastic communities in central London. He estimates that about 14 priestly vocations came out of the scheme.

“At St Matthew’s, I did a lot of work on how we do mission to the spiritual and not religious; how do we do mission with those who are very cynical about Christianity and the Church? and how do we live it profoundly? It is not just about talking about it.

“We needed a missional community to go really deep with what it means to live out the Christian faith, with a real focus on contemplative or prayerful action as a way of life.”

This experience, drawing on Franciscan, Ignatian, and Benedictine spirituality, is one of two core streams of new monasticism, he argues. The other is Celtic. Communities with a Celtic heritage, such as the Northumbria Community, are more monk-like, he suggests, while the spiritual are more friar-like, such as the Wellspring Community.

Fr Mobsby brought two former members of Moot to his current post at St Luke’s, Peckham, in 2015, to found the Wellspring Community, where there are three full-time residents, and a dispersed community of another 20 people.

“Monday to Thursday, there is a commitment to morning or evening prayer together, or alone if they are at work. On Tuesdays, there is an evening meal, at which we discuss prayer and how we develop as a community.

“Everybody is then expected to be involved in some sort of mission of loving service in Peckham.”

This parish- or deanery-based model differs, he says, from “intensive discipleship and schools of conversion experiences”, such as the Community of St Anselm and the Leicester Tree of Life, which is due to open in Leeds in February.


LEICESTER TREE OF LIFEThe residence of the Leicester Tree of Life is opposite the Cathedral Green

The Leicester Tree of Life

“THE Tree of Life is almost to be a tangible expression of diocesan priorities of growth and depth in disciples and mission,” its Prior, the Revd Rachel Bennetts, says. “It is a community that stands at the heart of the diocese modelling those priorities of prayer, discipleship, and mission.”

The first “novices” — 14 single men and women between the ages of 20 and 35 — will be admitted in February.

Much as at St Anselm’s, for 12 months the group will live in the same house, pray, worship, shop for food, prepare meals, eat, drink, and do the chores together. They will also visit partner churches in the city to help with mission.

The “house” is an amalgamation of three 1700s townhouses on the site of a former friary in the cathedral square of the city, on land where the remains of King Richard III were discovered (News, 27 March 2015).

Each resident will have a study-bedroom, and there will be a shared kitchen and refectory, lounge, a “prayer basement”, and a chapel, where the community will gather three times a day.

The novices — so named because it is a year of learning — will have no other employment, but have been asked to pay for their own upkeep, either independently or by applying for a special bursary from the diocese.

Ms Bennetts, a former parish priest in Farnborough, was appointed Prior last year, and will be living in the house and leading the novices in a programme of worship and study. “There will be a strong sense of rhythm, and the days will be structured.”

LEICESTER TREE OF LIFEThe Revd Rachel Bennetts is the Prior of the Leicester Tree of Life, which opens in February

Her main task has been to develop the vision and rule of the community. The Tree of Life, she says, will live by its name and motto: “We are learning to live a life that is rooted and flourishing and fruitful.” It is inspired by John 15. “In our society, we must be productive, useful, efficient, and you cannot grow fruit like that.”

She acknowledges that the idea is “counter-cultural, radical, and profoundly challenging” for the young people joining. “The community holds up a mirror to yourself so that you see yourself in all your faults and failings, as well as your glory. That will be one of the most formative parts of what we offer people.”

Novices must be single, and are asked to remain single throughout the year. “The danger of more exclusive relationships would be that they detract from giving yourself to the community for the year. But it is a year: it is not for ever.”

Applications are still open to join in February. “We are looking for people who have a Christian commitment, and who are responding to that yearning for a deeper spiritual life, but are also willing to engage in the world and do something about injustice and poverty. That is part of the gift of new monasticism: it is drawing on that deep wisdom, but also wanting to engage in the world.”


NORTHUMBRIA COMMUNITYA meal at Nether Springs, the Mother House of the Northumbria Community

Scargill Movement, North Yorkshire

THE Revd Andreas Weister Andersson was chaplain to the Scargill Movement in North Yorkshire for three years before he and his wife, Anna, left last August. The community, founded nine years ago, runs retreats, youth groups, worship, and events throughout the year.

“We found space and time to be gently exposed to our own vulnerabilities as well as those of others,” he says. He also shed “sentimental views of community”, because “we were regularly exposed to others’ frustrations, tiredness, and unresolved hurts. Others were exposed to ours, too, and that was humbling.”

The rhythm of community life has stayed with the couple. “Rhythm is a hard thing to shake; so we have tried to translate some of the rhythm we had, to see how it might help frame life and sustain our journey: a rhythm of prayer, shared meals, hospitality, being silly.”

For Ms Weister Andersson, it was also a journey towards healing. “The challenge and struggle with this kind of life is that you can never hide. It certainly helped me to embrace the brokenness and vulnerability in myself and in other people.”

Hattie Leigh joined the Scargill Community for a gap year before starting university. “I never wanted to leave,” she recalls. “I loved it.” She later returned to the community to work in the kitchens. “The kitchen taught me to have more trust in God. I remember that when we didn’t get our calculations right, there wasn’t quite enough food. I prayed, and it all turned out OK.”

Its founder, Phil Stone, explains: “Because of the joy of living in close proximity with one another, and our hospitality to our guests, we are not so much a school as an apprenticeship in discipleship. People who may have had important jobs and roles before they joined community find themselves working as part of a kitchen or house team.”

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has just approved plans to redevelop and reopen Scargill House, a retreat centre in the Dales that closed in 2008.

Mr Stone continues: “Scargill had a fruitful ministry for many decades, but, sadly, it sort of lost its way, and in 2008 was shut. There was a strong sense that God had not finished with Scargill; so it was bought back and was resurrected by a new charity with a new vision, and a new community was formed.”


LEICESTER TREE OF LIFEThe “house” of the Leicester Tree of Life is an amalgamation of three 1700s townhouses on the site of a former friary in the cathedral square of the city, on land where the remains of King Richard III were interred in 2015, after being discovered in a car park

The Monasteries of the Heart

THE Monasteries of the Heart is primarily an online community. It was founded by Sister Joan Chittister, of Mount Saint Benedict, Erie, in Pennsylvania, in the United States, in 2011, after the publication in the same year of her book Monastery of the Heart: An invitation to a meaningful life (SPCK), on which its rule is based.

“What St Benedict did, more than 1500 years ago, was simple, but revolutionary,” Sister Chittister says. “First, he began a new lay tradition. This has not been emphasised enough. St Benedict was a lay person who called other lay people to live differently.

“Second, rather than confront or build a new system, Benedict brought together small groups that began to live differently. Monasteries of the Heart is an attempt to extend this gift, to give the ancient monastic tradition new form and an electric new energy.”

The community has more than 17,000 members, about 2000 of whom have taken one of its 25 online courses and retreats. Its website also offers community news, facilitated discussions, and prayer resources — which is its most popular page and was visited by about 22,000 people last year.

Members are not required to meet or make vows, and, although some sub-communities have been formed, including in prisons, most members understand the website as their community, its director, Sister Mary Lou Kownacki OSB, says. “It is a monastery without walls.”

One member, Sharon Mosher, explained: “I wanted to find a group that allowed questions; that was not the final answer; that provided me the opportunity to express my concerns, angst, and desires in a safe environment.

“I don’t always find that in the larger community — but I did find it with the Oblates [of Mount Saint Benedict, Erie], and when the Sisters began Monasteries of the Heart. I realised that this movement and its website would allow me to participate in a monastic way of life when I was away from the monastery.”


HALLIDAY CLARK ARCHITECTSPlans for the redevelopment of Scargill House, in the Yorkshire Dales, which closed in 2008

Northumbria Community

THE Northumbria Community emerged in the late 1980s from Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Free Church traditions.

One of its founders and present leaders, the Revd Roy Searle, who is a former President of the Baptist Union, explains: “We found inspiration and some coherence in discovering the heritage of Celtic Northumbria and Ireland, which were rooted in the wisdom tradition of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, and were influenced by the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

“His writings and prophetic assertion that the renewal of the Church would come from a new type of monasticism have provided impetus and influence through our life together as a geographically dispersed community.”

But the term “new monasticism” still requires caveats, he says. “As with ‘Celtic’, new monasticism carries the dangers of popularism and superficial spirituality that can bear little resemblance to the deep and inspirational values and disciplines of Celtic Christian spirituality, and the wisdom of desert monasticism.

“New monasticism can, however, provide impetus and inspiration to those who are seeking to discover a way for living that is rooted in God and which takes seriously the call to follow Christ in a changing Church and world.”

The spiritual director of the community, Sarah Kinch, said that she had found in the community both a home and a language without being part of any established Church.

A retired parish priest of the diocese of Lincoln, the Revd Malcolm Nicholas, agrees. “I found a deep sense of belonging, in which I was more conscious of connection with members I had never even met than I was of the people with whom I met daily in the area. In the simple space of the community’s daily monastic rhythm, I found that my prayer life was enhanced and enriched.”


Young Franciscans

THE Young Franciscans, based in west London, were founded last year by the Revd Chris Lee, who is Priest-in-Charge of St Saviour’s, Wendell Park, and a novice of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis.

“Young Franciscans started out of a God-given hunger and thirst: for more depth, more prayer, more discipline, for deeper spirituality, for the pursuit of truth, for holiness, and, ultimately, for more of God,” he says. “When we look on the world today, there is much to be thankful for: wider education, health care, human rights — but there is also such blindness and shallowness.”

As of last week, there are now two branches of the community: the original group of 14 young adults, who meet monthly at the vicarage in Wendell Park, and a second group of four young adults, who, for a year, will “live by a rhythm of prayer, work, study, and mission” in a Franciscan house next door (News, 21 September).

The residents will continue in secular employment, pay rent, volunteer for charities and churches in the community, pray in the house chapel, take part in weekly meetings and monthly gatherings, and attend three retreats, including a pilgrimage to Assisi, where the Franciscan movement was born.

The rule of life of the Young Franciscans has been created by Brother Sam, who is a First Order member of the Society of St Francis. He is part of an advisory team to the new community, which includes the Minister Provincial for the European Province of the Third Order, Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes, and the West London Area Minister of TSSF, Emily Miller.

Mr Lee explains: “Regularly attending church is vital, but we have found that a simple Sunday and midweek group was just not cutting it for our growth as disciples of Christ as young people. There seems to be a growing hunger among the young for more, and no real net in which to catch this passion. Many don’t know how to pray or have any developed spirituality. We see this first house as a pilot for future YF houses throughout the UK.”


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