Episcopalians and the Religious Life

470 years ago, give or take a bit, Henry VIII dissolved the vast majority the monasteries, friaries, priories, and convents in England which, seemingly, brought an end to vowed Religious Life in England. One might assume, then, that the Church of England and its daughters such as the Episcopal Church would be missing monks, nuns, friars, and the like. One would be wrong.

Almost exactly 300 years after the disappearance of Religious Life in Anglican Christianity, during a period when the Catholic heritage of Anglicanism was being re-embraced, the first new religious orders for women were established in England (1841 – 1855) and for men and women in America (1842 – 1845). Anglican religious orders for men reappeared in England a few years later (1866).

Although some communities have disappeared over time and some houses within communities have appeared or disappeared, many of the original Anglican communities still exist. In fact, we seem to be in a period of revival for Anglican religious communities with the founding of new orders beginning in the late 1960s. The trend seems to be accelerating with the emergence of several new communities just in that last year or two and a growing movement of experimental communities, some recognized by the church and some not, some in the Anglican tradition and some not, which are being referred to collectively as a New Monasticism. Members of religious communities may be ordained or lay.

Some of us feel a call to a deeper relationship with God in Christ but don’t feel called particularly to ordination. For (some) people like us, Religious Life represents the fulfillment of that call. And, wonderfully, that’s available within The Episcopal Church.

Harold L. Slatore
Is a postulant in the Brotherhood of St. Gregory, a Christian Community of The Episcopal Church.

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1 thought on “Episcopalians and the Religious Life”

  1. And to add that even if the religious life is not your calling (or just not possible right now), you can become an associate or an oblate of a religious order, which both helps to support the order and helps your spiritual growth.

    I was received as an associate about five months ago of the Order of Holy Cross — which has a house in Santa Barbara (which you know, Harold, as that's where we met!) — and is an Episcopalian order of Benedictine monks…


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