Sunday, January 22 is observed as Religious Life Sunday in The Anglican Church of Canada, The Episcopal Church, and throughout the world. One of the reasons this observance is so important is that many of us may not be aware that Anglican monastic orders not only exist, but are thriving and growing in a variety of expressions.
Of course the most obvious image that comes to mind when we think of religious orders are monks and nuns living in cloistered communities. Anglican orders such as these do indeed exist, and – as has been true for centuries – the contributions they make to the Church and to the world in prayer and in service is vitally important.
However, other orders also exist, which are called “dispersed” communities. These also follow a Rule of Life, and many make the same vows as those who live cloistered, with the only difference being that they live in separate abodes. Other dispersed groups may interpret their monastic calling in a more modern way. Much like the Anglican Communion itself, Anglican religious orders come in many diverse forms and expressions.
I myself am a vowed member of a dispersed Benedictine community (OSBCn). We follow the ancient Rule of St. Benedict, and our vows and prayer practice are in many ways true to the ancient tradition begun in the 4th Century. Yet, we live apart. Our members consist of those both ordained and lay, men and women, married and single. Living apart poses challenges – we are constantly discerning together how to faithfully interpret and live by a Rule written for a very different time and place. Yet, in many ways I believe living apart has allowed us to form a community St. Benedict would have approved of – a community whose members leave all other marks of privilege at the door, and are given priority only by the date on which they entered. We love one another as family, meet regularly for prayer, study, and discernment, and pray for one another by name daily.
Why do we do this at all? Why are we not simply content with going to church every Sunday?
Being a Benedictine is just one way of being a Christian; it is not “more holy” than any other way. Benedictines have simply found that we are best able to pursue the goal of Christ by being formed and transformed by the Rule of St. Benedict as well as ordered prayer, lectio, and fidelity to one another.
Please remember those in Anglican religious orders in your prayers today, and know we are always holding you in ours.
Download the service booklet here: Liturgy at Home Epiphany 3 January 22 2023