“I’ve never felt so alive!” Combining monastic community with working life in London

Sign-ups are now closed for Non-Resident Membership 2016-2017. Applications for the 2017-2018 cohort open Advent 2016.

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For the last 10 months a group of busy young professionals have committed to the radical experiment of following Jesus as members of a quasi-monastic community, while keeping their own busy jobs in central London and beyond. It was a risky venture. Prayer so often gets squeezed to the margins of professional life, and prioritising God in the middle of the working day is not for the faint-hearted.

So for those who took up Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s challenge to put prayer right at the heart of their professional lives, it’s been incredibly rewarding – and often life-changing. While the resident Community tends to get a lot of media attention (live at Lambeth Palace! Be a monk!), our non-resident members have begun to address the question of “Can we be a community that loves and grows and prays amid the pressures of normal daily life?”

Here’s what non-resident member Katie, who lives and works in central London, had to say about the last year:

“When I first began this year, I was concerned that I wouldn’t have the time or the ability to really be committed to the experiment, while working a full-time job. That really concerned me. It’s been really amazing that although I do have a busy job and I’m also married and have a family life, it is possible to make time, even a lot of time, for God and for pursuing faith.

“I would recommend it to anyone who’s considering that – even if you think you would be far too busy, if you’re interested in your faith and in following God more closely, then in spending a year really dedicating yourself to that, you can learn some amazing things. God can show you that it can be done.”

Ignacio, a non-resident whose job takes him all over the world, had this to add: “For people who are considering applying, if you look at the amount of activity the Community involves, you might never do it… Do it! Give the time to God. I would never have assumed that I would be able to do all that I did, and God made it work. Spend the time. This is one year very well spent.”

Meanwhile Joanna, non-resident member and private client solicitor, said: “Putting God at the centre of your life and saying yes to him with the core of your being, with your heart, mind and soul, is the best decision you will ever make… I’ve never felt so alive!”

Apply by 30th June for non-residential membership for the year starting September 2016. You can start your application here.

To discuss any questions you might have, drop us an email at stanselm@lambethpalace.org.uk or call 0207 898 1210, 9am-5pm weekdays.

Called to #WorkInGodsTime but drawn to Community life?

Combining Non-Residential CoSA Membership with a year of shared residential life at the International Lutheran Student Centre – designed to allow normal work commitments – might be for you.

ILSC

If you are applying for Non-Resident Membership in the Community of St Anselm, 2016-2017 and would like to find out more about living in the ILSC Community, please include this in your application.

To start a new application (there’s still time!) click here.

Non-Resident Membership in the Community of St Anselm allows young professionals to take ‘a year in God’s time’ – to invite God to profoundly change and challenge them in the busyness of their everyday lives. One of the gifts to the Community this year has been our partnership with the International Lutheran Student Centre in Bloomsbury, which is home to postgraduate students from all over the world – and to several of our Non-Resident members.

Living at the heart of the Centre’s own community, Non-Residents who live at the ILCS share in a common life designed to fit around their work commitments and the St Anselm pattern of life.

Together with the Centre’s Chaplain (and a member of the CoSA staff team), ‘Anselmers’ support the spiritual and social life of the ILSC by attending or running events such as daily prayer, discussion groups, social events or outings. They are also involved in worship at the Centre’s Chapel on Sunday evenings.

As the group of ‘Anselmers’ grows, they will have a floor of their own, sharing a common kitchen and bathrooms. Every week, members will prepare and share several meals and times of prayer, depending on their availability, and they will invite others to dine on their floor.

Sarah Weigold is a designer and one of the Community’s current Non-Resident members living at the ILSC – we caught up with her to ask how living at the ILSC has enriched her experience of Community life this year.

What led you to join the Community of St Anselm and to live at the ILSC?

I was a final year student at Falmouth University planning what to do after graduation when I heard about the Community of St. Anselm. I had a strong sense that this was something I really needed to do. I was doing a lot of stuff for God but wasn’t actually spending much time with Him and that was why I was finding Christian life exhausting. I applied to be a Non-Resident to learn how to make time to listen to God in the middle of everyday life and work. Living at ILSC seemed like the natural choice because I was moving by myself to a new city and wanted to meet other people in the same situation. Now that I’m in London and see how easy it is to get lost in the crowd I am so grateful for the friends and other ‘Anselmers’ I have got to know through life at ILSC.

What difference does living at the ILSC make to your ‘Year in God’s time’?

Living with other members of the Community of St. Anselm has really helped me to keep on top of being a Community Member outside of Community meeting times, including Bible reading, personal prayer and following the Rule of Life. We encourage each other when it gets tough and share the strategies and resources that we find helpful. Doing a ‘Year in God’s time’ whilst living at ILSC has provided opportunities to practise sharing my faith without having to force it into conversation (when people ask you what you do and you tell them you’re part of a monastic community the questions soon start flowing!) Living in community has challenged me to grow in integrity- to be the same person in all situations. Before joining ILSC I would have ‘Christian’ conversations with my Christian friends and ‘normal’ conversations with my non-religious friends, now I have all of these people sat around the same breakfast table and am becoming more comfortable with just being myself.

How does community life at ILSC fit around your other commitments like your work and your social life?

Balancing work, life and Community membership is hard, so ILSC community life is very flexible but we are all committed to doing as much as we can together. With different work and study commitments our schedules vary but we try to have quiet prayer together most mornings in our meditation room. Group prayer has really encouraged me to persevere when I struggle to pray and the accountability of regular times is a good motivation to actually get out of bed! The best thing about ILSC community life is that as we’re all so busy there’s never any judgment over how much/little you do, just lots of opportunities to get involved wherever you can.

What is it like to be involved in the social and spiritual life of the ILSC? 

ILSC social life seems to revolve around food, which suits me very well! A communal breakfast is provided every morning and this is a great opportunity to catch up with friends or meet new people. We have a monthly meeting where all the residents get together for a talk, BBQ or the legendary ILSC international supper where everyone cooks a dish from their own country and we all eat far too much. We try to serve the community by organising shared dinners, acting as floor reps and running activities. Being a part of other people’s faith journeys has been an incredible privilege; a highlight of my year has been doing the Alpha course with two of my floor-mates and getting to know them better whilst discussing questions of purpose and faith.

ILSC Meal Time

How diverse is the community at ILSC?

The ILSC community is incredibly diverse (which was a bit of a shock after living in Cornwall!). People have come from all over the world to study here- out of the 80 current students only four of us are British. I particularly enjoy living alongside people of other faiths and having the opportunity to ask questions about their lives to try and get to know people rather than religious stereotypes. One of my floor-mates teaches Islamic History and it’s been fascinating to hear about the development of Islam from him at the same time as learning about Church history as part of the St. Anselm teaching programme.

What have been the greatest areas of joy and growth for you at the ILSC this year?

I seem to have talked about food more than anything else, so I guess I’d have to say that eating with other people has been the most enjoyable part of ILSC. I’ve been amazed at how sharing food with others can cut across all the boundaries that usually divide us, because whatever our culture, beliefs, gender, or status we all need to eat.

The biggest personal change has been learning to let other people into my life. I’ve always felt the need to be strong and self-sufficient but the other members of the Community of St Anselm at ILSC have made me feel so loved that I’ve been able to share my life with them, even the bits that are unresolved and messy.

 Text by Christina Winn, Oliver Matri and Sarah Weigold. Photographs by ILSC and Sarah. For more information about ILSC, visit their website – ilscentre.org.uk or their Facebook page – facebook.com/ILSCofficialpage  

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