Why SSJE? – Gates & Pat Agnew

IMG_1546Pat’s spontaneous evaluation of our recent six days at Emery House: It was “magical.” Both of us have years of experience sitting grueling 7-day Zen sessions while faithfully attending Trinity Episcopal Church here in Bloomington, Indiana. God decided last year it was finally time to have our cake and eat it too. Long days and nights of perfect silence and stillness before the Buddha with chanting and simple meals became at SSJE periods of contemplative solitude before icons on demand, amplified  by 4-5 services a day including Eucharist, extraordinary food, the wonderful hospitality of the Brothers, and a lovely rural New England setting. More specifically we remember Br. Nicholas’ warm greeting at Emery House, Br. John’s quiet introduction to the Virgin Mary, and Br. Curtis’ daily routine of helping Pat, who has difficulty balancing on stairs, down into the main dining room.  We remember building and feeding daily fires in our hermitage, eating breakfast, reading and enjoying quiet together listening to an intern chop wood outside: an intimacy like a spiritual honeymoon.  We remember reciting psalms in congregation, then chanting psalms, then breaking into harmony with hymns (the latter even more thrilling in Cambridge). We remember frosty country walks, and night reflections on the Merrimack River at flood stage. Despite a long drive, we remember coming home rested.

Why SSJE -åÊJulie H. Quaid

Julie_MG_8269.largeMy collaborative practice group spent four days in retreat at the Society of Saint John the Evangelist’s Monastery in Cambridge in October of 2015. The experience was much more than I could have ever imagined. The peace and tranquility shown by each of the Brothers and most particularly, the compassionate guidance of our retreat leader, helped me to become more prepared to deal with the bustle and demands of my job as I help families in pain and transition. I was overwhelmed by the generosity and humility of these men who have dedicated their lives to making a difference in the world and who challenged me and showed me, through example, how to pause in my day to breathe and move forward with gratitude and self-awareness. I am deeply appreciative of the opportunity to learn from the Brothers and experience the beauty of this place.

Why SSJE? -åÊMark Delcuze

Mark_DelcuzeSSJE has been a beacon of prayer, hope, and joy for me for more than thirty years. In my first days in seminary, it was a place of solitude and respite amid the storms of learning. Serving the church as a young priest, I awaited the Cowley Publications catalog like gardeners look for the spring seed catalogs. A decade in New England reconnected me to the community through spiritual direction and retreat. Now, while a little farther away, the digital world keeps me connected and I count the days until my next trip to Emery House or the Monastery. Good worship, good counsel, good hope; I have received them all from the Brothers.

Why SSJE ? -åÊJane Buttery

ButteryI have been a lay reader at my church for fourteen years. I also do pastoral visiting at seniors’ residences and nursing homes as well as with shut-ins. I am still on call to the Hospice of Windsor and Essex County, where I have volunteered for twenty-five years. Sometimes people ask me, “How do you do it?” I reply “with prayer and with God’s help.” As I have aged I have valued prayer more, and it is good to be connected with people who have a discipline of prayer. The Brothers’ words convey that. As a cradle Anglican from Canterbury Kent UK, I like that connection and I like the depth of thought in what I have read from the Brothers. The Brothers’ online teachings keep that connection for me.

Why SSJE? -åÊDr. Norman “Sam” Steward, Jr.

image.jpegAt the suggestion of my parish priest, prior to my marriage, I attended the “first retreat in silence” at Emery House. My five-day experience changed my life in many ways, but most importantly put it in correct perspective. Learning to “be” was a huge risk in my mind. Being with myself, at peace, became comfortable as I discovered Christ within. Through prayer with the Brothers and some private counseling while on retreat, I realized that I am loved by God through Christ and that is the most important aspect of my existence. I am not alone! My prayer life was revitalized and following the Fellowship Rule has become a routine, a passion. My singing in my parish choir, vestry involvement, eucharistic ministering and my marriage took on new meaning. I now love my church and feel fully at home both here and with the Brothers and look forward to and long for my next visit.

 

Why SSJE? – Char Sullivan

Rowan and Grandma CharI’ve known SSJE for over forty years and, in that time, I don’t think the community has essentially changed at all. The community has always been doing its utmost for its mission to witness to Christ for everyone who comes by, or who is invited, or happens in. It’s a wonderful thing that SSJE is so steady – so steadily aware of itself and its mission to be an inspiration, a guide, a sort of spiritual home for the laity. 

And yet, at the same time, I’ve also always appreciated how SSJE is forward-looking. A document like their Rule of Life is an inspiration to those who want Christianity to be imaginative, innovative, and always looking for signs that God’s will might be different from what it has been heretofore. I’ve always felt well, if SSJE is doing it, it’s okay. I had a spiritual director elsewhere for about ten years, but when that ended, I did not succeed in finding another one. Instead, now I test things against what the monks are doing, or saying, or preaching. I have a number of sermons printed out from what the Brothers make available online. There are some that I return to on a regular basis because they seem to be so clear and so applicable to what I’m experiencing. In a way, SSJE has filled in as my spiritual director. Now with Brother, Give Us a Word, I look forward to contacting my “gurus” every morning when I start my prayer session.

Why SSJE? -åÊScott Christian

Scott_ChristianWhen I wrote my will, I decided that I wanted to leave a specific percentage of my estate to charity. In addition to my local Episcopal church and school, I wanted to give to a select few national Christian communities that not only have had a profound impact upon my life but which also have a vision for the future of Christianity that comes closest to my understanding of what the Kingdom of God should look like here on earth. SSJE is one of those communities. First, it is a shining example of the both-and holy paradoxes of our Anglican faith: contemplation & action, traditional & progressive, liturgically rich yet simple, high tech & personal, and monastic & radically hospitable. Second, the Brothers’ outreach to individuals and communities across the Episcopal world through their on-site retreat offerings as well as their weekend retreats which they lead in faith communities is a uniquely powerful ministry that is essential to the long term health of The Episcopal Church. I was recently reminded of the Brothers when I read Eugene Peterson’s final paragraph to his commentary on Jesus’ Final Discourse, “The pattern holds: Whatever we do in Jesus’ name, we begin on our knees before our friends and neighbors and conclude looking ‘up to heaven’ praying to our Father. Washing dirty feet and praying to the Holy Father bookend our lives” (Conversations, p. 1672).

Why SSJE? – Nancy Barnard Starr

nancy_in_studyI am a far-flung, antipodean member of the Fellowship of St John, and have been since 1994. I met SSJE in their southern outpost, Durham, NC and joined FSJ at CDSP in Berkeley, CA. Keeping in touch through prayer or electronically, the brothers of SSJE remind me that, wherever we are, Christ meets us with an understanding heart. With thanks for your presence to so many. Arohanui.
– Nancy Barnard Starr

Why SSJE? -åÊRoss Bliss

052Being a member of the FSJ, I share a mutual bond of prayer with the Brothers. Just knowing that makes a difference in my life, really. I know that I am part of a circle with this group of men who are living a life of prayer for the world. The relationship of mutual prayer is a very stabilizing thing – both subtly and strikingly effective. It’s a preview of the Communion of Saints.

    It’s been helpful to me, in really practical ways, to have this relationship of mutual prayer as I’ve discerned a call to ordination. I have felt supported in this by the Brothers, even though I haven’t had any conversations about it with anybody from SSJE. My decisions or directions have felt the added discernment and support of a body of men who are very committed to what they’re doing, and that’s helped me, just as following the FSJ Rule has helped me to have a clear head and a clear heart as I discern forward with my own life. 

    Supporting SSJE financially is just a practical, material part of this relationship. Imagine how it would be to say you love someone, but never doing anything for them. How would that work?

– Ross Bliss

Why SSJE? – Michael Zahniser

I first discovered the Monastery around 2007. Living a mile away, I could walk over whenever I had a really bad day and just needed someplace quiet and peaceful. I knew that every day of the week, except Monday, I could sit in on a Compline service. It became a sort of sanctuary for me: a place that I could go when I just needed to soak in God’s presence and be with other people who were deep in prayer. There is so much history of faithful service and prayer at the Monastery, that just entering the building feels like stepping into a river of prayer and letting the current carry me along. 

I think it’s vitally important that a community like this exists right in the heart of Harvard Square, where so many students and young people are looking for that kind of sanctuary and the stability of a faithful community. I support SSJE partly because I personally have felt fed and nourished by the Monastery, but also because I think it’s such a great thing to have a community like SSJE living right in the heart of the city, available for all who wander in, really needing it.

– Michael Zahniser

Why SSJE? -åÊCarol Petty

100_3891Through “Brother, Give Us a Word,” I have an everyday kind of relationship with SSJE, because that e-mail pops into my box every morning and either challenges me or focuses me or comforts me. I just love that, even on busy days, I receive that little something – not just a blurb; not just some simple thought, promising me a happy day. No, the word is almost always challenging. It holds real-life questions and provocative ideas to make me think. 

Typically, I’ll star the day’s word in my inbox because I want to come back to it. Then eventually, I realize that my inbox is full of so many flags waiting, I can’t possibly go back to each one of them, so I just save them all. They’re all worthy of going back to and thinking about some more! 

I support the Monastery so that the Brothers are able to continue that work and continue the ministry from which I have benefited. I’ve gotten to where I feel like I know the Brothers now, having had chats with them every day for several years! It’s a gift of gratitude.

– Carol Petty

Why SSJE? – Alexis Kruza

GOOD Alexis Thanksgiving at MonasteryIn my relationship with the Brothers, I have learned so much about who God is and about the qualities of honesty and transparency, love and patience, and the Fruits of the Spirit. After having worshiped at SSJE for three years, I feel that the depth of my faith has grown so much. There is an authenticity here in the Brothers’ humility, their warmth, their generosity of spirit. It’s taken my perspective on God to a totally different level; I see that God is affirming and loving, accepting and yet encouraging and challenging at the same time – not “kick you in the pants” challenging. It’s much more of an invitation: “Grapple with this. Here is an invitation for you to grow.” Continue reading

Why SSJE? – Constance Holmes

image001SSJE is carrying the highest mission and calling of the Episcopal Church USA and of the global Anglican Communion. Every day I find a reflection – Brother, Give Us a Word – in my inbox and I share it with those close to me, local and far-flung.

By holding up to so many the fruits of their deep prayer and devotion to their monastic calling, SSJE carries a lamp for Christian laity worldwide. SSJE has indeed become, through the miracle of electronic technology, a lamp unto all nations. I salute the community and wish to express the depth of my gratitude to them for everyone to see.

– Constance Holmes

Why SSJE? – Christina McKerrow

Christina McKerrow - Photo for SSJESome years ago, Br. James Koester came to Kingston (ON) for a Quiet Weekend in the City. Since then, the Way has been drawing me closer to God, slowly, slowly. About nine or ten years ago, my husband developed Parkinson’s disease, and later cancer as well. In spite of my formerly lackadaisical relationship with Jesus and our Eternal Saviour, I prayed to God. I asked to be granted patience, compassion, a loving heart to deal with the daily stresses. God’s gifts, in answer to my prayers, came silently in the night, and my husband John and I did our best with His help. I discovered then, and more recently, that my time is not God’s time.  Continue reading

Brother, Thank You -åÊMatthew Tenney

Matthew TenneyThis year, three exceptional young people took part in the Monastic Internship Program, living, worshipping, and working alongside the community for nine months. We asked them to reflect on what they would take away from the experience. Here is what Matthew Tenney had to say:

In reflecting on my time living and working and praying alongside the Brothers of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, I’m reminded of Canon Henry Parry Liddon’s praise for the Father Founder: Continue reading

Help Us Let It Be – Sarah Brock

Sarah Brock - 1 This year, three exceptional young people took part in the Monastic Internship Program, living, worshipping, and working alongside the community for nine months. We asked them to reflect on what they would take away from the experience. Here is what Sarah Brock had to say:

“Lord, it is night. The night is for stillness. Let us be still in your presence. It is night after a long day. What has been done has been done. What has not been done has not been done. Help us let it be.” So begins one of the prayers we often lift up at the office of Compline. Upon hearing it prayed aloud during my first week as an intern, I was drawn in by the poetry of the words and particularly by this desire to let go of the work of the day and be still. It has been true for most of my life that there is no end to the work that needs to be done. Every time I cross an item off of my to-do list, it seems I also add at least five more.   Continue reading

As Iron Sharpens Iron – Raphael Cadenhead

This year, three exceptional young people took part in the Monastic Internship Program, living, worshipping, and working alongside the community for nine months. We asked them to reflect on what they would take away from the experience. Here is what Raphael Cadenhead had to say:

Raphael Cadenhead - 2

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). How, exactly, does life in community transform and ‘sharpen’ us?  This question has been on my mind since I arrived at SSJE in September, and I’m only now beginning to grope for an answer. Continue reading

Reflecting on the Internship Experience – Seth Woody

In September 2012 to June 2013, three exceptional young men took part in the Monastic Internship Program, living, worshipping, and working alongside the community for nine months. We asked them to reflect on what they would take away from the experience.

COWLEY shots 036The monastic daily schedule is the antithesis of undergraduate college living. Like most people after college, I graduated still in the midst of self-discovery, trying to figure out how to be the best version of myself. This internship was an opportunity to work on pieces of me that were just impossible to work on in the college setting. I knew that, as an extrovert, I wasn’t going to be able to take time to be silent and to live a disciplined, structured life without this experience.

I feel like I’ve learned a lot from just the act of being physically present five times a day for worship. Just having that discipline to show up if I’m not feeling well; if I don’t want to be there; if I do want to be there; if I have other things to do, there’s a lot to be learned in just showing up. That’s so simple, yet I think what the monastic life offers is such simple and profoundly deep practices of life.

I have actually gotten into the rhythm of waking up with the sun and going to bed a little bit after the sun. That seemed like such an impossibility to me coming here: to be able to awake at 5:30 and begin the day! I had never done that, never imagined I could. It goes back to discipline: My natural inclinations are not to stick to a disciplined life. After being able to live in this space for nine months, to experience this structure and discipline, I feel more equipped to go out on my own and put my own practices into place.

 

 

Reflecting on the Internship Experience – Waylon Whitley

In September 2012 to June 2013, three exceptional young men took part in the Monastic Internship Program, living, worshipping, and working alongside the community for nine months. We asked them to reflect on what they would take away from the experience.

COWLEY shots 029One of the real beauties of this year for me has been being seen, really being seen and embraced as a person. In this, I think that the Brothers epitomize the best of Christian community: They embrace people as individuals and don’t ask that you live up to a set of standards before they love you. That’s really rare. And it’s what I needed.

So often, as human beings, we settle for less than we deserve. We’ve bought into a commercial version of life where we’re told, “If you get certain stuff you’re going to be really happy; if you get these jobs, you’re going to be happy; if you climb high enough up on the ladder and get a certain house and get a certain amount of security, then everything is going to be okay.” The truth is that none of that is very important. The most important thing is community and love. The SSJE community really exemplifies those values, which are a central theme in Johannine spirituality, but which I’d always dismissed as sort of Hallmark stuff. But love, in its fullest sense, is what God wants for us. This kind of love is accepting and it’s warm and it’s forgiving and it’s very spacious and it allows us to be fully human and not need to put on airs or pretend like we’re something we’re not or to strive in some way for achievements or possessions. When you’ve lived in a place like this, where you’ve been shown great hospitality and abundant love, you begin to realize that love does have the potential to transform us as individuals. No material things can do that. No amount of security or money in the bank is going to really transform us. But love has the ability to really transform people.

That certainly has been my story here: To be loved, as I’ve experienced this year by this community, wakes up a part of you that makes loving other people possible. And I think that, as a church, or just as people on a very human journey, our capacity to love is really the most important thing that we can develop. If we’re going to spend time in life doing anything, this is the one thing that really has the potential to transform us the most, and to transform the lives of everybody around us.