Sunday, 30 November 2014

Anglican Monks and Nuns?

As many of us know, the Anglican Church is wide and diverse. It has been known as the Via Media (or middle way) of the Christian Church, and is inclusive of liberal and conservative, protestant and catholic. The Anglican Church is also inclusive of monks and nuns! Monastic communities are a fact of Anglicanism that not all are aware of. 
Oratory of the former Elmore Abbey, Newbury, England
My introduction to Anglican monasticism was on my very first retreat in 1993 while a student at Queen’s College. Through a faculty members affiliation with the Anglican Sisters of St.John the Divine, located in Toronto, Sister Anitra was invited to lead our retreat. Among other things, she spoke about a little book by Ester DeWaal titled “Seeking God” (worth finding and reading!). This book is an introduction to Benedictine Spirituality and Religious Orders within the Anglican Church. One of the things that interested me about Benedictine spirituality was the daily rhythm of prayer and work designed to carry the pilgrim through to the end of the life journey. Benedictine spirituality is also about commitment to the community, and to a life long process of conversion. “Lectio Divina” (holy reading) is a form of Christian meditation and is another important part of Benedictine life.
Oratory of Mucknell Abby, Worcester, England
From both lay and ordained perspectives (St.Benedict was a lay person), there is value in this spirituality and in the spiritual support of Religious communities. After a year in my first parish in Port Rexton, I went on retreat to an Anglican Benedictine community at Elmore Abbey in Newbury, England, and became a member of the community. Over the years it has become a spiritual home for me where I can go for rest and re-creation.
Valerie and some of the monks of Elmore. These monks are now housed at Salisbury
I have come to know and love these monks, and they continue to inspire me in their lives of prayer and hospitality. There are a number of Anglican religious communities in the UK, US, Canada and beyond. The Anglican Church in Newfoundland and Labrador is probably most familiar with the Sisters of St.John the Divine in Toronto.
Sister Sue from the SSJD, Toronto
Benedictine spirituality is something worth exploring no matter where we live or how young or old we are, whether lay or ordained. Personally, Benedictine spirituality has been foundational not only to my life of prayer, but it has also provided a rule or guide that has permeated all aspects of my life. There are those who have gone much further and have vocations to Religious life, and those monastic communities that they belong to have a very important role in the spiritual care of the wider church. Let us learn from and be inspired by their commitment to life long prayer and hospitality to all.

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