September 2019

Tuesday 3rd, Feast of St Gregory the Great – At a short ceremony during the Eucharist Br Patrick renewed his Simple Vows for another year.

Thursday 5th – Katy Hirst, a former member of the Community of St Anselm (COSA) who spent her monastic placement with us last year, and whose vocation story can be read here, left us after a few days’ retreat. She has just finished her second year at COSA and is now looking forward to starting her ordination training at Ridley Hall, Cambridge.

Friday 6th – Some of Br Michaël’s icons are now available in our shop as postcards. He tells me that his waiting list for commissions is now just over 2 years, with prices ranging from £300 to £4000. After a summer break he is looking forward to once again taking up his icon course in Canterbury next month.

Br Anthony has been harvesting apples and pears from our orchard. We’re currently eating Banns and Worcester Pearmain, which unlike the varieties we get the supermarket actually taste of something.

Sunday 8th – A car load of us went to Tintern Abbey, in the beautiful Wye Valley, for the annual ecumenical Vespers organised by the Friends of Tintern Abbey. As well as our Roman Catholic brothers from Belmont Abbey (and many thanks to Abbot Paul for the photographs), we were joined by sisters from Ty Mawr, the Holywell Community and Brs Martin John and Tobias from Glasshampton. Blue skies and the addition of Newport Cathedral choir made it a very different affair from the one held two years ago, when we last attended.

Monday 9th – Our new Alongsider, Lydia, arrived from the United States. That’s about as much as I can tell you at the moment because Sr Sally and I had left for Hertfordshire before she arrived. We were attending the third Anglican Religious Communities in England conference, which over the last four years has brought together traditional and new communities into some very fruitful dialogue. The theme this year was ‘Differences in Common’.

The keynote speakers were Sister Dr Gemma Symonds SJ (not, as I accidentally called her – to my shame – Carrie Symonds), director of the Religious Life Institute, and the historian Dr Peta Dunstan. Sr Gemma challenged us to think about our charisms, while Peta drew on her extensive knowledge of the history of Anglican Religious life to contextualise the still-live issue of vows and leadership. There was also a chance for members from four different communities to share their stories, myself included. We were also introduced to the new Canon on Religious Life, and a new document produced by the Advisory Council on the terminology used in religious communities, both of which were more interesting than they sound. There were also several workshops running in the afternoon, and more than enough opportunities for people from different communities to get to know one another, which is really what it’s all about.

Everyone seemed to agree that this year was characterised by a much greater sense of unity, and at the next conference in 2021 we will begin to discuss what, as communities both old, new and emerging, we might do together.

Sr Sally was on the organising committee for the conference, and ended up becoming our unofficial sacristan. The chapel, which I think had been built by Quakers, wasn’t set up with an Anglican liturgy in mind, so after our first Eucharist we resorted to washing the patten and chalices in the loo, piling everything precariously on a nappy bin.