Just over one year ago I left my family, friends, and job to become a residential member of the Community of St. Anselm (CoSA). A vision of the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, CoSA was created to bring young Christians of different denominations from around the world to live in an intentional community in Lambeth Palace. Together we lived our call to follow Christ through a shared life of prayer, study and service.
Daily life in CoSA was dictated by the liturgical calendar. As one of 16 residential members, my days were rooted in a routine of corporate and personal prayer. For the majority of CoSA, however, this was not the case; 20 members joined as non-residents, meaning that they continued to work or study in London while participating in community life. Our weekly meetings together were centered on worship, fellowship, and the study of subjects such as scripture, church history, and life of the church in the world today. The BBC produced a short segment on daily life of the residential members of CoSA, which can be found here.
As mentioned in a diocesan article last year (St. Elizabeth’s, Ridgewood parishioner to spend year in Lambeth Palace’s new young adult program, October 7, 2015), CoSA is similar to NEWARK ACTS, which provides young adults the opportunity to live in an intentional community while serving the surrounding area. For me, living in community also provided an opportunity to explore my own faith, and questions I had about living together in the church: how would it be possible to respect our differences while fully and honestly living in community? How could we live so closely in disagreement?
Answers to these questions came through CoSA’s Rule of Life. Shaped around traditions of religious life founded by St. Benedict, St. Francis, and St. Ignatius of Loyola, our Rule helped us turn daily towards Christ. My relationship with the Rule encouraged face-to-face reconciliation with other community members, a commitment to prayer, and a desire to grow in transparency with others.
In practice, these disciplines led me to use much of my time listening with others. By this I mean not listening to others through my own assumptions or into my own context, and instead receiving each community member as a gift. This attitude of listening with others helped me to remain open-minded, and to learn much about living in disagreement.
Growing up in St. Elizabeth’s, Ridgewood, helped prepare me for the experience of living in a Christian community. My time in church school, serving as an acolyte, and as a confirmand provided me not always with answers, but instead taught me to look first to Christ when asking questions.
Last year marked the first year of CoSA, and it has continued with a new cohort of members this year. While the experience I lived was incredible, it was by no means exclusive. Though CoSA was often referred to by its unofficial motto, “a year in God’s time,” spending this past year in community has helped me realize that living in God’s time is fundamental to each of our own individual calls to be with Christ.