Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of blog posts from Miranda Harrison-Quillin. Miranda was specially invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury to work and pray in the monastic community of St. Anselm at Lambeth Palace in London for 10 months. She plans to lead a congregation in the Florida Conference next year.
“Pardon me, what the white robes are meaning?” asked a pleasantly stout Italian grandma through a thick accent.
We were standing in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, considered to be the most holy location in the world for Roman Catholics. She clearly couldn’t understand who these robed young people were, snapping selfies and reveling in the vastness of the Basilica.
“We are the Community of St. Anselm, a religious community of young people who are praying, working and living a shared life with the Archbishop of Canterbury in London,” I replied.
|This year's invitees to the religious community of St. Anselm are representing 10 countries from around the world and many religions. Together, they serve the poor and study theology; and enjoy London.|
She smiled and nodded in feigned understanding and walked away.
That’s the reaction most people have when I try to explain what I am doing in my #YearinGodsTime. Is it a study program? Is it a mission trip? Have you joined a cult? Why would a young woman from the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church want to give up a year and go live a monastic life?
It was mid-February of this year when I got a Facebook message stating, “This seems right up your alley.” It was from the Rev. Emily Sterling, associate pastor at Trinity UMC Palm Beach Gardens. As my bestie from Duke Divinity School, she would know what is “up my alley.” She knew my affinity for all things churchy, ancient and liturgical.
She also knew my love for people and living closely with others in the structure of community life. As usual, she was right.
Monasticism is a pattern of life centered around prayer, study and oftentimes service, which began in the first few centuries of the Church. Ever since learning what monasticism was all about, I have wanted to experience it. So when I read about the Community of St. Anselm, I knew I had to apply. The Holy Spirit moved in me so clearly and I knew I was called to this.
The Community of St. Anselm is a post-modern monastic community for Christians aged 20 to 35 from around the world. It was started last year by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican Communion, and is housed at his official residence in central London called Lambeth Palace.
It is truly ecumenical with members from across the universal church. It includes Anglicans and Roman Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Congregationalists and so on. And we come from more than ten countries including the US, UK, Mexico, Tunisia, Pakistan, South Africa, Finland, France, Zimbabwe and India.
We have fifteen resident members who live at Lambeth. We also have twenty-three non-resident members who, while living in and near London, maintain their working and family lives while committing to a rhythm of prayer, study and service as well.
No matter the country or denomination we represent, we find common ground in our desire to deepen the discipleship of our Lord Jesus Christ.
On September third, my long sought after dream became a reality when I arrived at Lambeth and began this journey officially.
Lambeth Palace is an island in the middle of London. All around us, the city moves at breakneck pace, as ambulance sirens incessantly wail and double-decker buses carry Londoners through roundabouts.
But here, inside the walls, the pace is slower. The sounds are infrequent, and the mantle of prayer hangs in the air. We stand as if in defiance against the hustle and bustle, by being still and knowing God.
Lambeth is also equally a place of prayer. The whole complex, the Archbishop’s staff, the security team, the gardeners, cooks and the 15 young people in the Community all move to the rhythm of prayer and to the sound of tolling bells.
Hoping to get a more accurate picture of what my next year would look like, a woman from my church in Tampa asked: “When I think of monks I think of a bunch of people walking around in robes praying all the time. What are you going to be doing?”
“Pretty much what you just said,” I replied.
|The monastic community is housed at the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury and is called Lambeth Palace. Here, students leave the noise of London behind for a silent world of prayer and meditation.|
Three times a day the tolling of the bells calls us to prayer: 8:30, 12:30 and 5:30. We wear white albs and keep silence for hours each day. We serve the poor and study theology, church history and ecclesiology.
Archbishop Justin once said, “The best decision anyone can make at any time is to follow Jesus.” That is what we are doing this year. We are trying to follow Jesus with everything we have and everything we are; to dive headfirst into the uncharted waters of shared community life and disciplined prayer; to attempt to live our vocation of becoming somebody, a somebody who is a disciple of Jesus Christ.
We are participating in the mission of the UMC “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
It has been a shock, for sure, to orient my life around a community of others and not just myself. I have a sneaking suspicion that is the whole point of this year. In fact, this is the calling of the Gospel for us all: To orient our lives around the Triune God and to serve and love the people around us.
I shared with the community a scripture which has been following me around my whole life. It comes from Paul’s letter to the Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing of selfish ambition or vain conceit. But in humility consider others better than yourselves.”
I believe this year will teach me this lesson better than any other endeavor. Thank you for all the ways you are sharing this journey with me. Let’s see what God does in this “year in God’s time."
If you would like to contribute to Miranda’s trip to help pay expenses, go to her GoFundMe page at Miranda the Monk. To learn more about St. Anselm watch the embedded video below.