Religious Life Sunday: Celebrating Religious Communities in The Episcopal Church
The 80th General Convention of The Episcopal Church approved resolution 2022-B004, “Foundation of Religious Life Sunday,” to be commemorated each year on the 3rd Sunday of Epiphany. The purpose of this observance is to share with all Episcopalians the existence of vowed religious orders and communities, their residential and dispersed ways of life, and what resources and support they have to offer.
Our life in Jesus Christ is lived out with community and mutual support. We all need companionship along the way to help deepen our relationship with God and to help center our lives in Christ. Over centuries, vowed religious—living as monks, nuns, sisters, brothers, and friars—have developed traditions and practices that assist in developing spiritual growth and discernment. Vowed religious engage in teaching about prayer practices, lead retreats, give spiritual direction, assist in writing and living a rule of life, give presentations about the spiritual journey, and provide spiritual friendship. Our residential religious communities offer hospitality for short visits or longer retreats. Religious communities also welcome associates or oblates who engage in a special relationship to the community. Our communities are also eager to welcome new members to join in our vowed lives and to carry forward our ministries and traditions.
The website, Religiouslifesunday.org, includes a video, written resources, a list of speakers, and much more to help Episcopalians and others in our communion connect with religious communities in our church and to join in the celebration of Religious Life Sunday.
Contact Religious Life Sunday for more information.
Q: What is the process for forming a Christian Community?
NAECC created a Formation Committee to answer this very common question. Their work produced A Guide to Starting A New Christian Community. You can use this document as a resource when discerning the formation of a community and as a general guide. You can also reach out to any of the member communities of NAECC for further information, resources and prayer.
Q: What is a Rule of Life?
A Rule of life is absolutely essential to any monastic life. It says ‘this is who we are, this is our story’; and it reminds us of those things God has put on our hearts, calling us back to our foundations. The idea of a Rule of life developed in Christian monastic communities, and indeed, monasteries and convents today still function under a Rule, the best-known of which is that of St Benedict, dating from the 6th century. Monastic stability is based on accountability to the Rule of life; it serves as a framework for freedom – not as a set of rules that restrict or deny life, but as a way of living out our vocation alone and together. It is rooted in Scripture, pointing always to Christ; and, in the words of St Benedict, it is ‘simply a handbook to make the very radical demands of the gospel a practical reality in daily life.’
Q: What does it mean to be canonically recognized?
The Episcopal Church canonically recognizes 18 traditional orders and 14 Christian communities for men, women, or both. Episcopal Canons are the laws that govern the Episcopal Church USA. When a community seeks canonical recognition, they fulfill certain requirements set forth by the Church and are then reviewed by a committee of Bishops, who then determine whether or not to officially recognize that community within the Church laws. Not all communities seek canonical recognition and it is not required to function and offer ministry and prayer within your community. Seeking canonical recognition is an important decision made within each community. NAECC can help you determine whether this process is right for your community.
Q: What is the difference between traditional orders and christian communities?
A Religious Order of this Church is a society of Christians (in communion with the See of Canterbury) who voluntarily commit themselves for life, or a term of years, to holding their possessions in common or in trust; to a celibate life in community; and obedience to their Rule and Constitution. (Title III, Canon 14, section 1)
A Christian Community of this Church is a society of Christians (in communion with the See of Canterbury) who voluntarily commit themselves for life, or a term of years, in obedience to their Rule and Constitution. (Title III, Canon 14, section 2)