January 22, 2023 – Epiphany 3 (A) Religious Life Sunday
Are you seeking to deepen your relationship with God and to center your life on Jesus Christ? Are you longing for companionship along the way? Episcopalians living under vows (monks, nuns, sisters, brothers, friars) provide guidance, community, and resources for the sacred journey. We invite you to celebrate Religious Life Sunday and to learn more about the spiritual support that we offer.
What is “Religious Life Sunday”?
The General Convention of The Episcopal Church approved resolution 2022-B004, “Foundation of Religious Life Sunday,” to be held each year on the 3rd Sunday of Epiphany. This Sunday focuses efforts to tell all Episcopalians that residential monastic and dispersed Christian communities exist, who we are, and how to connect with us.
What are the “religious” communities in The Episcopal Church?
Religious communities in The Episcopal Church include monastic communities, whose members live together under a rule of life and under vows such as poverty, chastity, and obedience. “Religious life” also includes dispersed Christian communities whose members are from all walks of life, who have jobs, who live in their own homes, some with families, and who live under religious vows.
What can religious life do for me and for my faith journey?
We have developed traditions and practices that assist in developing spiritual growth and discernment. We teach about prayer practices,
lead retreats, give spiritual direction, assist in writing and living a rule of life, give presentations about the spiritual journey, and provide spiritual friendship. Many of our monastic communities offer hospitality for short visits or longer retreats. Religiouslifesunday.org includes resources, a video, a list of speakers, and much more.
You may perceive a call to a deeper commitment with one community, as an associate or oblate. Such commitments begin with discernment and preparation, followed by a formal service of commitment. Associates and oblates pray for the members of the community, as we also pray for them, and may offer financial support, commit to a rule of life, and attend retreats. You or someone you know may be experiencing a call to join a community; we welcome the opportunity to discern with you.
How can I connect with an Episcopal religious community?
Residential monastic communities: caroa.net.
Dispersed Christian communities: naecc.net.
More resources: religiouslifesunday.org.
Collect For Monastic Orders and Vocations
O Lord Jesus Christ, you became poor for our sake, that we might be made rich through your poverty: Guide and sanctify, we pray, those whom you call to follow you under the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, that by their prayer and service they may enrich your Church, and by their life and worship may glorify your Name; for you reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
© 2023 The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. All rights reserved.
Religious Life Sunday to shine spotlight on Episcopal communities, monastic orders
BY DAVID PAULSEN
Posted Jan 5, 2023 Episcopal News Service
[Episcopal News Service] Monastic orders and Christian communities are commonly referred to as one of the best kept secrets in The Episcopal Church. “I think a lot of people have no idea that we have monks and nuns that live in monasteries, as well as brothers and sisters that are part of our dedicated religious communities,” Franklin Kline, a member of the Anglican Order of Preachers, told Episcopal News Service.
The secret is out. The deep spirituality of these communities was affirmed last year by the 80th General Convention and will be celebrated on Jan. 22, the third Sunday after Epiphany, when Episcopalians across the church mark Religious Life Sunday for the first time. Dioceses and congregations are encouraged to observe Religious Life Sunday by sharing online resources about those communities and by inviting members of religious orders to speak and preach at Sunday services.
“Our life in Christ is all about community and mutual support. We need companionship along the way to help deepen our relationships with God and to help center our lives in Jesus Christ,” Sister Ellen Francis, OSH, said in an article promoting Religious Life Sunday. Francis is a member of the Order of Saint Helena and vice president of the Conference of Anglican Religious Orders in the Americas.
“For decades, it has been a dream of Episcopal religious communities to have a Sunday of observance and celebration of religious life,” Francis wrote. “You or someone you know may perceive a call to a life in religious vows, and we welcome those who do to enter into discernment conversation with us.”
Kline, of the Anglican Order of Preachers, is helping to organize the Diocese of Missouri’s observation of Religious Life Sunday, starting with an overnight retreat Jan. 20 and 21 at the Marianist Retreat Center in Eureka. Diocesan festivities will include a choral Evensong at Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis, where Kline worships.
“I think people are looking for something more and deeper in their faith walks, and I think this is a wonderful way to engage in the life of the church,” Kline said.
Members of monastic orders live together under such vows as poverty, chastity and obedience. Similarly, members of Christian communities, though living apart, come together for prayer and formation while agreeing to follow religious vows. The Episcopal Church canonically recognizes 18 monastic orders and 14 Christian communities for men, women or both. Each is defined by a spiritual guideline, or rule of life, and by its commitment to prayer, life in community and hospitality.
Kline, like many Episcopalians, was unaware that the church had such communities, until St. Louis hosted the annual gathering of Anglican Order of Preachers in 2010. He helped accommodate some of the order’s activities at Christ Church Cathedral and found that the community appealed to his desire for “something deeper” in his faith journey.
“I was looking for something more than just attending church,” he said. “It has been very fulfilling.”
The Anglican Order of Preachers is open to clergy and lay men and women and follows the Dominican tradition of prayer, community, study and preaching. Members agree to live lives of simplicity, purity and obedience, Kline said. It has about 150 members in the United States and around the world, from England to South America.
In the Diocese of Chicago, Will White of the Community of the Mother of Jesus is supporting parish observances of Religious Life Sunday across the northern Illinois diocese. White works as director of operations at Church of Our Savior in Chicago and worships on the city’s north side at Church of the Atonement.
While participating in congregational life is one way of practicing one’s faith, White said a monastic order or Christian community offers members additional paths toward spiritual enrichment.
“As Christians we feel called by Jesus to something [more] … by the nature of our baptism,” White told ENS. “So really, this community approach, rooted in monastic tradition, is another avenue of exploring vocation.”
Community of the Mother of Jesus, open to all gender identities, is small but growing. It formed in 2011 and now has about a dozen or more members, some but not all of them based in the Chicago area. “Our vows are justice, tenderness, humility and contemplation,” White said. The community’s rule of life is centered on Mary’s relationship with Jesus throughout his life, death and resurrection.
In addition to attending an annual weeklong retreat, members of the Community of the Mother of Jesus pray the rosary and the Daily Office throughout the week, including through an online prayer group. Throughout the year, members also organize events with in-person and online options, sometimes featuring a guest speaker, to engage in spiritual reflection. And members commit to serving the Community of the Mother of Jesus’ mission, to minister to neighbors who are in need.
For this first Religious Life Sunday, White said he primarily is spreading the word to congregations in the Diocese of Chicago, with the hope that such observances will grow in subsequent years.
Religious Life Sunday was established as an annual observance of The Episcopal Church by the 80th General Convention in Resolution B004, which was proposed and endorsed by 14 bishops representing dioceses in California, Georgia, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Wisconsin. The explanation attached to the resolution noted that monastic orders and Christian communities “have existed in The Episcopal Church since the mid-19th century but are largely unknown by Episcopalians.”
The Conference of Anglican Religious Orders in the Americas was the driving force behind the idea of a Religious Life Sunday, partnering with National Association of Episcopal Christian Communities. Episcopal bishops who have been active in supporting such communities readily agreed to introduce the resolution and secure its passage.
Ultimately, Religious Life Sunday is about raising awareness, White said. “There are people who in their own spiritual life are seeking something deeper,” he said. “My prayer is just that people see the width and breadth of communities that exist in the American church and just start to form relationships.”
– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community in Christ