(All photographs: Marc Gascoigne/Lambeth Palace)
Forty-five young Christians were commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, today as new members of the monastic-inspired Community of St Anselm at Lambeth Palace in London.
The community, which was founded by Archbishop Justin last year, brings Christians aged 20-35 – from many countries and cultures, and many church denominations and traditions – together for 10 months under a shared Rule of Life focused on prayer, study and service to the most vulnerable in society.
Shortly after taking office in 2013, Archbishop Justin said his first priority would be the renewal of prayer and Religious communities across the church. The following year he announced that a community for young Christians would be founded at Lambeth Palace.
The Community of St Anselm is made up of resident members from around the world, who live together at Lambeth Palace, and non-residents based in and around London, who combine their life in the community with their other responsibilities to work, family and church.
Archbishop Justin is the Abbot of the Community, which is led by Prior Anders Litzell and a team made up of members of the Chemin Neuf Community who live at Lambeth Palace.
This year the members from this year come from all over the world, including the UK, USA, France, Poland, Zimbabwe, Mexico, Finland, South Africa and India, among others. They also represent a wide variety of church streams and denominations, from Anglican and Episcopal to United Reformed, Methodist, Lutheran, Newfrontiers, Orthodox and Roman Catholic.
The community this year is made up of 15 international residents, and twenty-one non-residents who will combine their life in the community with their other responsibilities to work, family and church. In addition seven non-resident members from 2015-16 will be continuing their commitment for another year.
Preaching at the service today, Archbishop Justin spoke about how adopting the Benedictine monastic practice of “placing yourself under discipline” is “extraordinarily counter-cultural”. “But if we are going to call ourselves disciples of Jesus Christ, we start by saying I accept the sovereignty of God. There is no other way of being a disciple.”
“The Community of St Anselm very deliberately takes people from all over the world, with their cultural differences and personality differences. It deliberately takes bits of the disunited church. It takes all these different factions and fragments and it’s an experiment to see if together we can live in unity, because we are in the vine – because we abide in the vine.”
The Archbishop said the point of this year for the members was “a bet that the reality of Christ is sufficient and that the promises of the community’s Rule of Life are true. That because of a year spent here learning ‘abiding’ in God, there will be much fruit – individually and collectively – which is the calling and purpose of Christian discipleship: to bear fruit.”
Speaking during the service, the Prior of the Community of Anselm, the Revd Anders Litzell, said: “The Community of St Anselm has been established to serve Archbishop Justin’s call for a renewal of prayer and Religious life across the Church. The new members are today making a commitment to a shared Rule of Life that is about shaping our whole beings in response to God’s radical grace in Jesus Christ.
“We trust that the experience will transform these young lives to reflect the beauty of God’s holiness with irrepressible integrity. And we pray that they will go on to help transform our world through self-giving in their local, national and international communities.”