Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is today (28 March 2014) welcoming over 100 members of a broad range of Anglican religious communities to Lambeth Palace to discuss the renewal of Religious Life within the Church.
The conference will bring together members of diverse communities – some centuries old, others newly emerging – who are bound together by a common commitment to prayer, community living, and a radical service of Christ, often in demanding social contexts.
The event marks a significant early step towards the Archbishop's vision for the renewal of prayer and the Religious Life, which he has declared as a core priority for his ministry.
Welby will give a keynote address in which he will set out his vision to explain and encourage those gathered.
The conference, ‘Religious Life and Renewal: Exploring Roots and Shoots’, has three aims: to give members of religious communities around the country an opportunity to interact with the Archbishop’s vision for the renewal of Religious Life; to receive affirmation and build vision together; and to seek to reinvigorate and reimagine connections between religious communities and the church’s structures.
The event follows the Archbishop welcoming four members of the international ecumenical community Chemin Neuf to live at Lambeth Palace in February 2014. The community members support the daily life of prayer at Lambeth Palace, ensuring the Archbishop’s work is grounded in prayer, and praying especially for the unity of the Church.
Archbishop Justin Welby commented: “I am thrilled that people from communities in all corners of our country are gathering to talk and listen - and be inspired by the Spirit of God. Some of them may not look like conventional monks or nuns – but all of them are people I admire very deeply. They are those who have committed themselves to Jesus in radical and costly ways – without whom our church would be diminished both in depth and breath.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Chaplain, the Rev Dr Jo Wells, added: “Future generations may look back and say, ‘In those early decades of the 21st century, the Church blossomed thanks to the growth of religious communities.’ They are bubbling up in surprising places, occasionally despite rather than because of our church, and
Archbishop Justin is keen to ensure that they are celebrated and encouraged.
“I see them as a very modern icon for something most of us long for – for spirituality which is embodied and earthed; for integrity which is transparent and focused; for relationships which are deep and inclusive, often engaged with those in our society in deep poverty and need.”
The Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, who chairs the Advisory Council on the Relations between Bishops and Religious Communities, said: “It is hugely moving to see passion and wisdom being shared between newly emerging religious orders and those that grew up in the Church of England in the last two centuries. Both are living the Christian life in a deep discipline of prayer and community-belonging, a discipline that for many provides the energy and inspiration both for radical living and for mission and ministry in the most demanding contexts.”
The phrase ‘the Religious Life’ refers to the shared life of religious communities which are devoted to the simple activities of work, study and prayer and live by a shared ‘rule’ which helps members to support one another to reach new depths in their lives of faith.