Thursday, 4 September 2014

Archbishop invites young Christians to spend year praying at Lambeth Palace


The Archbishop of Canterbury has announced this new initiative today.

Archbishop of Canterbury invites young Christians to spend year praying at Lambeth Palace

Thursday 4th September 2014

Archbishop Justin Welby is opening up Lambeth Palace to adults aged 20-35 to spend a year living, praying and studying together as a radical new Christian community.

In a unique experiment, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is to open up Lambeth Palace in London to Christians aged 20-35 – inviting them to spend a year living, studying and praying at a historic centre of the Anglican Communion.

Launching in September 2015, the Community of St Anselm will gather a group of adventurous young adults from all walks of life, hungry for a challenging and formative experience of life in a praying community.

The Community will initially consist of 16 people living at Lambeth Palace full-time, and up to 40 people, who live and work in London, joining part-time. The year-long programme will include prayer, study, practical service and community life.

Members of the Community will live in a way the ancient monastics would recognise: drawing closer to God through a daily rhythm of silence, study and prayer. But, through those disciplines, they will also be immersed in the modern challenges of the global 21st century church.

Lambeth Palace is in the process of recruiting a Prior to pioneer this new venture and direct its worship and work. The Prior will work under the auspices of the Archbishop, who will be Abbot of the Community.

Archbishop Justin Welby said: “Stanley Hauerwas reminds us that the church should always be engaged in doing things that make no sense if God does not exist. The thing that would most make no sense at all if God does not exist is prayer. Living in a praying community is the ultimate wager on the existence of God, and is anything but comfortable or risk-free. Through it people subject themselves to discipline, to each other in community, and, above all, to God.

“I expect this venture to have radical impact – not just for the individuals who participate but for life at Lambeth, across the Church and in the world we seek to serve. This is what we expect in following Jesus. I urge young people to step up: here is an open invitation to be transformed and to transform.”

The Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Revd Dr Jo Wells, said: “Archbishop Justin is passionate about prayer and about community. The renewal of prayer and Religious Life is the first of his three priorities, and that is what the Community of St Anselm is all about.

“We are inviting people from all around the Anglican Communion – and beyond – to live a year in God’s time. There are no qualifications for joining the Community except a longing to pray, to learn, to study together the things of God, and so to be stretched in body, mind and spirit.”

“Archbishop Justin longs that Lambeth Palace be not so much a historic place of power and authority, but a place from which blessing and service reach to the ends of the earth.”


We have also been sent these notes.

  • Four members of the international ecumenical foundation Chemin Neuf came to Lambeth Palace earlier this year to live as a praying community. They will continue to share in the daily round of prayer that underpins the Archbishop’s ministry, while providing invaluable assistance and specialist expertise with this new venture.
  • To be eligible to apply to join the Community, applicants must be aged between 20 and 35. No formal theological, or any other, qualifications are necessary. Applications will be welcome from all over the world, from Christians of any denomination. It will be an ecumenical community.
  • Those who join the Community will be asked to contribute towards the programme and living expenses.
  • Applications will open early next year. Keep checking the website for updates.
  • Saint Anselm, a Benedictine monk and brilliant scholar, was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093-1114. His motto of ‘faith seeking understanding’ reminds us that the faith journey begins with an active love of God – and from this love a deeper knowledge of God follows. Anselm became a monk when he was 27 – when he first enquired about the possibility, aged 15, he was turned away.


John Bingham The Telegraph Archbishop of Canterbury offers monastic gap year at Lambeth Palace

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 4 September 2014 at 11:11am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

What a totally inspirational idea. Absolutely brilliant. Maybe all other Diocesans could follow this pioneering concept and
open up 44 new, young and vibrant religious communities, thus helping to revive the monastic way of life. The monasteries protected the lamp of Faith throughout the "Dark Ages", maybe Abbot Justin's initiative could do the same through the dark times of the 21 st century?

Posted by: Father David on Thursday, 4 September 2014 at 1:52pm BST

This is a fantastic idea, and I am sure it will be very enriching for those who participate.

I am curious, though, as to why there is the age restriction on it. It seems to me that, by excluding anyone aged over 35, the Community will not be wholly authentic as a Christian community, which should surely include people of all ages (as well as diversity in other ways). The "young Christians" who become part of this Community will, I think, miss out from not having older Christians sharing in the daily rhythm of community life.

Posted by: Chris Routledge on Thursday, 4 September 2014 at 2:52pm BST

Not my cup of tea, but seems like a nice idea. Credit where's it's due.

Posted by: Laurence Cunnington on Thursday, 4 September 2014 at 6:01pm BST

It sounds good. Where is funding coming from?

Posted by: Susan Cooper on Thursday, 4 September 2014 at 6:07pm BST

I take Chris's point but when you look at the average age of those currently in our existing religious communities I can quite see why Archbishop Justin has imposed an upper age limit.

Posted by: Father David on Thursday, 4 September 2014 at 6:19pm BST

Holy hogwash. Evangelical Anglicans such as Welby are emotionally and intellectually incapable of comprehending the scale of the crisis afflicting Western Christianity. The church we (my family and I) attend has recently launched a similar 'prayer initiative'. Absolutely anything, of course, apart from the increasingly difficult task of persuading non-Christians that there might just be something in Christianity.

Posted by: John on Thursday, 4 September 2014 at 7:03pm BST

All religious communities I know are age restricted for new admissions and some are ruthless when you get too old!

Of course this could be a great opportunity and life enhancing experience. My only concern is the need to fund yourself. This might attract only a certain type of candidate who has money behind them.
Might I suggest that TA offer to sponsor a candidate?
I would be willing to stump up £20 a month for a year.
If there was a willingness amongst others here and TA to provide selection and admin it could help fund someone who has no backing?

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 4 September 2014 at 7:36pm BST

Martin agree totally about TA followers supporting this wonderful new initiative. So many potential young vocations are being lost from the religious life as there has not been the energy in recent years. Most similar schemes are more connected to the Evangelical wing of the Church, which are admirable in themselves and do great work, but do not fit with those seeking a more contemplative way of life which may lead to life-long vocations in religious orders, who will then experience renewal and growth.

Posted by: Fr. J on Thursday, 4 September 2014 at 11:53pm BST

'Evangelical Anglicans such as Welby are emotionally and intellectually incapable of comprehending the scale of the crisis afflicting Western Christianity'.

Nice to see the liberal spirit is still strong around TA. I think folks here are wrong quite often but I hope I wouldn't stoop to questioning their intellectual or emotional intelligence based simply on the fact that they are liberals.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Friday, 5 September 2014 at 2:04am BST

Well, religious communities (in the U. S., at least) restrict age, usually around 45, because our "greatest in the world" healthcare is too prohibitively expensive for them to care for the aging. They also tend to be limited only to the upper middle class because they can't afford people who might have debt.

Don't get me started on "pre-existing conditions!"

Like the church, now, it's a business. They have to be because we despise poor people, and begging and that's what religious communities have always been about - poverty and reliance on as well as distribution of, charity. Not to mention the absolute boiling hatred of anything remotely "communist" which is, at heart, the monastic form of life. I don't see how monastic communities can possibly continue, given tight-fisted church-goers, middle-management monastic higher ups, and a larger, uncaring and selfish society. Religious communities are destined to collapse in the perfect storm of 21st Century awfulness.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Friday, 5 September 2014 at 5:54am BST

Archbishop Justin says: 'The thing that would most make no sense at all if God does not exist is prayer.'

This doesn't strike me as a comment from someone who has plumbed the depths of prayer: a lack of comprehension of God often goes hand in hand with prayer. And doubts about the existence of God in no way preclude people benefitting from prayer. What does the Archbishop make of Buddhist prayer, I wonder?

I wonder if he has a precatory rather than a contemplative understanding of prayer. Here's hoping the community's Abbot will bring greater spiritual depth.

Posted by: Stephen on Friday, 5 September 2014 at 11:16am BST


If you read my posting carefully you will see that it is a great deal subtler than you first thought. It contains about six different propositions. And 'Evangelicals such as Welby' doesn't mean all Evangelicals, it means 'Welby' and 'Evangelicals like him' (let's call them Alpha-formed). I am completely aware that there are lots of different kinds of Evangelicals (as indeed there are liberals). Keith Ward considers himself to be Evangelical. Some Evangelicals I consider to be more or less bonkers, and before you dismiss this as liberal snobbery, I point that other Evangelicals take the same view of them as I do (and often with greater hostility - because they're competing on the same turf). As you must be aware, no one on TA argues more pertinaciously for liberal pluralism within the C of E than I do - even though I consider some Evangelicals to be more or less bonkers (surprised if you didn't too).

Posted by: John on Friday, 5 September 2014 at 4:12pm BST

"I wonder if he has a precatory rather than a contemplative understanding of prayer." Nicely put, Stephen. For the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, Welby's theology of prayer appears remarkably shallow.

John, I agree completely. It's hard for reality to burst through the bubble that preppy, HTB evangelicalism exists within. From inside that slick marketing zone, whatever lip-service you pay to decline, success is all you can see.

Posted by: James Byron on Friday, 5 September 2014 at 11:57pm BST

Could this young group not be in direct contact with the existing ecumenical community already established at Lambeth Palace? Presumably the interchange of Benedictine-style prayer and discipline would be good for these youngsters.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 6 September 2014 at 12:47am BST

This is a helpful initiative. Religious life - as expressed by people living in community and rooting their lives in prayer - is a jewel of our Church tradition.

At a parish and diocesan level, we can learn much from communities who have dedicated themselves to lives that include a deep investment in daily prayer.

So I regard this initiative as useful, both for the people involved, and as a reminder of the religious communities around the country, living out prayerful lives in community, in all kinds of expressions.

I'm having retreats in a couple of convents in the next few weeks - with sisters who have inspired me and supported me. And once again, my life will encounter the rhythm and stillness and waiting on God, that is part of the daily cycle of these places.

Much needed for a nurse whose normal life is rush - rush - rush in a busy London hospital!

I think it's great, if younger people get a chance to explore this.

Come let us worship. Come let us wait on the God of so much grace and faithfulness.

Holy, Holy, Holy.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Saturday, 6 September 2014 at 7:23pm BST
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