a Companion of the Community of the Resurrection
is the text of an address for a Study
Day on Prayer and Community held in Canterbury on 11 March, 2017
A few years ago I gave a talk at our church about Anglican Religious Communities and the reaction seemed to be one of incredulity that such places actually exist. As somebody said then “I thought monasteries and convents all disappeared at the Reformation” - and this sort of reaction was coming from lifelong Anglicans! (It was, famously, Archbishop George Carey who described the Religious Life as the best kept secret in the Anglican Church).
One thing which Companions of the Community of the Resurrection can do is to help CR - and Anglican Religious Communities generally - to become rather better known amongst the faithful. In other words, Companions can help to be ambassadors for CR and the Anglican Religious Life because we are people out in the world with all sorts of opportunities to talk about CR and our affiliation to it.
That affiliation is important: it makes us members of those Religious Communities; not as Brothers or Sisters but rather more like Cousins; perhaps even remote Cousins geographically - but never spiritually.
Personally I feel it to be a great honour - and very humbling - that a Community of Brethren, focussed on God 24 hours a day, living alongside Him, following his ways, should invest in reaching out to me and people like me and bring us partly within their fold. It does, I think, give a true reflection of God’s love.
Companions are not part of the inner workings of the Community and perhaps that is why the arrangement works so well. We are quietly welcomed, always respected and genuinely given the sort of affirmation and fillip which does not usually happen from other people or situations. It is that attitude of love and acceptance which we, as Companions, can take out into the world on CR’s behalf.
There is a word which tries to encompass all the Community stands for: “charism”. It is that charism and the work of the Community which many of us have come to know which leads us to becoming Companions in the first place so we can then, in turn, share that work and charism in our own lives, in our own locations and with all the people with whom we interact. We are actually bringing a dimension of the Religious Life into our own Christian - and even secular - environments.
Fr Nicolas CR once described Companions as “following Christ but with added dimensions”. What are those added dimensions? Well, we make our commitment to CR - which we renew annually - and we continue to try to deepen our discipleship, to serve, to try to understand the mystery of the resurrection in our lives and what it means for us and, importantly, to pray - not just for the world and for our own communities and for ourselves but for CR and its work and for our fellow Companions and those listed on the CR intercession leaflet. That prayer is actually two way, because the Community is also praying regularly for its Companions, so not only are we giving strength to CR through prayer, we are also receiving it.
Trying to have a discipline of regular prayer - perhaps, if we can manage it, at the same time as a CR Office is taking place - really helps to keep us rooted in one of the fundamental roles of the Community. Because we are dispersed, we of course are not participating directly in the Community’s life at Mirfield but through prayer and our other commitments we become extended members of that life, helping to keep the horizons of CR far out beyond the Community’s own walls.
Something expected of Companions is to follow a personal Rule of Life. This actually means different things to different Companions. Each of our personal rules are meant to be challenging yet realistic, so of course they will vary with our individual circumstances. We are each asked to have a Spiritual Director with whom we can work out our own personal Rule and we are asked to think not only about worship in our own individual communities but also daily prayer, regular study, at least one annual retreat if possible - perhaps at the one at Mirfield in Advent specifically geared towards Companions - and other important considerations like penitence, through the Sacrament of Confession, almsgiving, involvement in organisations, maybe even a rule of fasting at certain times. It is adherence to that Rule which helps Companions to keep centred on Christ in a disciplined and focussed way, underpinning everything else which may be going on in our lives.
Almost from the start of what was then called the “Fraternity”, CR Companions - as the name by which we are known today - have tried to meet together in local groups. Inevitably, over the years, some groups have come and gone depending on those able to take part in their activities but there is still a great deal of benefit to be had from, if we can, meeting together for talks, reflections, quiet days, social events and, particularly, for the Eucharist, perhaps conducted by a CR trained Priest working locally to the group. This kind of interaction is a vital source of mutual support for Companions plus - and this can’t be overestimated - it gives visibility to the name and work of CR at a local level.
Since the major works on the Community church have been carried out and the site at Mirfield has become something of a place of pilgrimage, Companions can play an important role in helping to bring people to Mirfield on pilgrimage weekends or for retreats or to join working groups. This is often how new Companions come about - they visit and stay at the Community, they come to know it and all that it stands for and they want to become a part of it and take some of it away with them as a tiny seed to be planted in their own community which, when it starts to grow, can lead in turn to new people being introduced to CR.
There is a special day set aside each year for Companions to meet at the Community and this is usually a wonderful blend of worship, study and socialising. There is a pilgrimage each year by Companions to the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham which, again, is another opportunity to meet and pray and socialise together in a very special environment. The other major highlight of the calendar each year is the Companions’ Study Week. Actually, it usually doesn’t quite last a week – it is what used to be called the Summer School - when we live in the College of the Resurrection at Mirfield and have a specific timetable of study and worship although, again, with a good deal of social time built in.
Companions actually form a wonderful support network for the Community - we are pleased to try and help and support CR as much as we can in our own ways; that may be financially or though using our time and our talents to help or, indeed, all of the above. Because Companions are, essentially, just ordinary people; working or retired, young or old, active or more contemplative, there is a whole dimension of ideas and energy which we can offer to the Community. That great surrounding pool of associated talent and opportunity can act as a source of constant refreshment and renewal for the Community itself and, indeed, can sometimes even give rise to new postulants.
In summary, then, Companions,
for CR - as with all Religious Communities - I believe are vital in a two way
process: helping, supporting the Community, making it visible locally, praying
for it, broadening its reach and influence far beyond what might otherwise be
possible but, equally, allowing us as individuals to tap into the history,
experience and love of an established community and to stay rooted in Christ and
in something so worthwhile and God-focussed as the Community of the
From Walter Frere, one of the Founders of the Community:
God, I desire to love thee with all my heart which thou madest for thyself;
all my mind which only thou can’st satisfy;
all my soul which longs to soar to thee;
all my strength, my feeble strength, which shrinks before so great a task
yet can choose nought else but spend itself in loving thee.
thou my heart,
thou my mind,
my soul and
where I fail,
mayest succeed in me
make me love thee perfectly.