Treasures of ancient spiritualities rediscovered at Lambeth
In September, Ridley graduates Rachael and Jonathan Lopez joined a new monastic community for young people set up by Archbishop Justin Welby at Lambeth Palace. Here they respond to questions TMA put to them about their experience.
December 4 2015
The Community of St Anselm in the Crypt participating in a conversation with Archbishop Justin Welby and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
How is your faith deepening by living in community, and monastic community in particular?
Rachael – Living in a monastic community, we have an agreed ‘Rule of Life’ and a spiritual authority we submit to. These two aspects have been hugely helpful in creating a safe space for my faith to deepen. Thomas Moore writes in the preface to The Rule of St Benedict: “From the creative point of view, the monastic rule is an instrument for shaping a particular kind of life for which a person has deep and genuine desire.” This life of prayer and deep trust in God is something I have longed for, but I really needed a framework for it to grow. Having a rhythm of prayer and worship built into our day, as well as having fellow community members and leaders listen to my struggles and stir me on in the faith is hugely encouraging to me.
What are you learning about prayer, meditation and silence?
Jonathan – As Community of St Anselm resident members we are privileged to have an hour of personal prayer and an hour of silent prayer daily. Before coming to Lambeth I would not have used the word ‘privileged’ to describe this discipline. Now it is something I rely on after the 13 weeks we have been here. It has been in these moments of personal prayer that God has really been at work in me. With the assistance of monastic disciplines from Benedictine, Franciscan and Ignatian spiritualities, I have hesitantly been discovering God in new ways. Previous to moving here I would lean towards more contemporary resources on personal spirituality and I am surprised by the depth in exploring old ways that are new to me. These forms of meditation and contemplation were foreign concepts to me but I have been pleasantly surprised by their usefulness.
How is the outreach/service aspect of your life deepening your faith?
Jonathan – We are given two days each week to work in our respective charities. I am at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital as a volunteer chaplain. It has been such an honour to be given the gift to minister to the patients at this hospital. I feel very much at home there, as the hospital is very multi-ethnic and being with the staff and patients reminds me of the western and northern suburbs of Melbourne in which I have done ministry. Sharing conversations of deeper spiritual needs with patients has put my pastoral studies and experiences into practical use. My faith is encouraged by the way God has been at work through the large chaplaincy team and how we are really being blessed by learning from them.
How is worship and communal prayer in the community deepening your faith?
Jonathan – We are challenged by the different ways we worship and it is because of this range I have been able to observe, question and appreciate why other Christians worship differently. This in turn changes my perception of a denomination, many issues now becoming for me a secondary matter, in light of the faith we share and what God is doing within me and other community members. Therefore the deepening has come through the open space we have to understand one another.
Is living in monastic community giving you new insights/perspectives on faith, and your own faith journeys?
Rachael – A lot of my faith journey has been trying to stick to my tribe or with whom I am comfortable, and then God constantly shaking things up. This experience at Lambeth Palace has been a heightened version of that. As someone interested in further theological study, I am aware that one of my weaknesses is to judge something without really engaging or experiencing it. By being in such a diverse environment I have learnt to listen with the intent of understanding, and to fully engage with a new experience before critiquing.
What is your experience of Justin Welby? How does he and the Prior inspire you spiritually?
Rachael – Both our Abbot Justin Welby and Prior Anders Litzell inspire me in two ways especially. Firstly, they inspire me in prayer, which begins and ends the working day at Lambeth Palace. It is the one constant: times of prayer are a priority. Secondly, in their deep love of different expressions of Christianity. It isn’t something abstract but I see their engagement with other Christians informs their own faith. This stirs me to actively engage with other Christians and see what treasures can be found within 2000 years of history and from across cultures and denominations today.
Jonathan and Rachael are raising funds towards their year at Lambeth. The Anglican Development Fund has set up an account for giving. For more information please contact the Anglican Development Fund on (03) 9653 4220 or firstname.lastname@example.org