CONSTITUTION of the NEW BENEDICTINE COMMUNITY
ARTICLE 1: NAME AND UNDERSTANDING
Our name is the “New Benedictine Community” (Community). We are a contemporary expression of an ancient monastic tradition—“a school of the Lord’s service” (Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict). We are a dispersed, vowed Benedictine community, incorporating the best of what is old and what is new– ecumenical and emergent but maintaining a timeless balance of prayer, service, and community. We seek to live in the presence of God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the One who creates, redeems, and brings to fulfillment. Amen.
ARTICLE 2: VISION
We strive to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ, walking in the footsteps of generations who have gone before us, gathering in His name, and seeking the inspiration of our holy father St. Benedict whose Rule we embrace as our guide for the journey. We do this together as community, in prayerful reverence, and with the hope that God will direct our lives according to His purpose.
We are a community that gives flesh to the vision of our Benedictine forebears but strives to form a new kind of monastic life that is faithful to the spirit of the Rule as it has relevance to our time and place.
In this life-long journey, we hope to “[t]ake care of everything, revere one another, eat and drink moderately, pray where [we] work, think deeply about life every day, read, sleep well, don’t demand the best of everything, pray daily, and live in community… Be[ing[ sure that one part of [our] life is not warring against another.” Joan Chittister, OSB, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily at 78, quoting Rule 4).
In keeping with St. Benedict’s foundational insistence on radical hospitality, we welcome all as Christ without exception. We remain open to new ideas and expressions of all kinds, whether religious, political, social, artistic, intellectual, or cultural. The whisper of God is present in all things, new or old, and new things may lead us to new ways of experiencing the reign of God among us.
For those of us who are called to this way of life, these words set our hearts on fire. We thus respond with our whole being. And we invite all to join us on this quest for God in community. “LISTEN, my child…”. Rule 1.
ARTICLE 3: CHARISMS
Because of our conviction that St. Benedict speaks wisdom to us today, we choose to be a community that lives out his values of prayer, service, hospitality, community, study and humility.
Section 3.1: Prayer
Contemplation and Silence. Beyond all words and ideas, we seek a deeper form of prayer that transcends particular methods and techniques and leads to quiet union in and with God. As Anthony de Mello says: “[We strive [n]ot an absence of noise, but an absence of self”.
Intercessory Prayer and the Opus Dei. Prayer for the world is the particular ministry of the monastic. Through it we act as a leaven for the whole planet as we wait for the fullness for which God created us. We gather together in prayer as the “Opus Dei”, the “work of God”, as prescribed by St. Benedict, in active, outward communion with the world.
Section 3.2: Service. In St. Benedict’s monastery, everyone was expected to offer some sort of service to the Community, laboring in the fields, serving at table, running the abbot’s office, sharing the wisdom of years of faithfulness, or allowing others to tend to our frailties. Monks always serve someone and in that service, serve God.
Section 3.3: Hospitality
Presence. “Being with” people rather than “doing for” them is perhaps the greatest service we can offer anyone. In simple acts of solidarity with others, we honor both their dignity and our own.
Surprise. No one can predict what God has planned. We must keep our hearts and minds open in order to receive God’s gifts and surprises. Inclusion. All people, regardless of circumstance, are called into a dance with God.
D. Ecumenism. God likely cares a great deal less about our differences than we do. Because of that, we choose not to make denominational distinctions within the Community. We thus give witness to the unity within the diversity of God.
E. Safety. We affirm that we cannot grow together as a Benedictine community if we do not pledge to each other and to the wider church that we will adhere to the principles of “Safe Church” as developed by Episcopal Church.
Section 3.4: Community
Relationship. This is our greatest treasure in Christ. Community is the most complete expression of our oneness as the Body of Christ.
Work. We are co-creators with God in Christ and our labor is offered as a gift to God and to our communities. We are called to actively participate in the work of the reign of God, no matter how humble the work or how large or small our communities.
Holy Leisure. Too often forgotten in our society is the blessedness of play. A childlike immersion in carefree pleasure is perhaps the best way to discover the simplicity of joy.
Section 3.5: Study
A. Growth. Learning something new expands our entire being. Our goal is to continue to grow and to learn until, at last, we surrender our lives to God.
B. Wonder and Awe. “When I see the heavens, the work of your hands, who are we that you should keep us in mind?” (Psalm 8:3-4). We seek to live in intentional awareness of God’s presence and creativity, thus inspiring us to live in continuous awe and wonder.
C. Lectio Divina/Sacred Reading. We allow the words of scripture to move as deeply within ourselves as our own breath. We then bring those words into our life together.
Section 3.6: Humility
A. Simple. Things that are beautiful and true move in the direction of
simplicity rather than complexity. 3
B. Practical. Rather than esoteric consideration of spiritual matters, we seek to walk a path that teaches us how to live life in the here and now, and to do that well.
C. Realistic. Sometimes our egos tell us that we are more than we really are and sometimes our egos tell us that we are less. Either way, it’s all about us. Realism accepts what is, forgives, and gets on with life.
ARTICLE 4: VOWS
Section 4.1: Conversion of Life
A. B. C.
Faith. Faith is about what we give our hearts to. When we give our hearts to God, our lives change.
Ongoing Growth. Living things grow and change constantly. Our faith life must also grow and change if it is to be dynamic and alive.
Change. Change is non-attachment to what is—for the sake of what might be.
Section 4.2: Stability
Intentional. “Mindful living in the presence of God”. (Br. Francis, OSB). Contemporary. We are not looking to recreate past glories but to discover what St. Benedict might do in this century and culture. Grounded. Our path forward is soundly rooted in the faith of the church and the wisdom of the Benedictine tradition.
Section 4.3: Obedience
A. Trust. Trust in ourselves, in others, in our “way”, and in the God who has led us throughout our lives.
B. Compassion. The compassion that forgives our leaders for being human; allows us to remain faithful even when we cannot see the road ahead; and trusts that God is at work in all things.
C. Wisdom. Knowing that there is always more than what we see and know in this moment, as well as recognizing patterns in ourselves and in our communities.
D. Balance. As Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB says:“[We strive to live] well, both alone and with others….totally immersed in God”.
Section 4.4: Absolute Faith in the Goodness of God
Absolute faith. Ultimately, this is all we really know: God is good. Everything else is simply an elaboration of this basic fact. We either live by this unshakeable belief or we do not.
Prophetic witness. We call ourselves and others into a remembering of what is true and good and worthy through our lives of commitment to the vision that God is good and that, as a consequence, this way of life is good.
Always beginners. No matter how long we have lived in intentional work with God, we call ourselves and others to remember that we are all beginners in the spiritual life.
ARTICLE 5: THE BENEDICTINE RULE
We honor the Rule as fundamental to our self-understanding, Constitution, and practice. It sets the tone for our way of life. We also honor the praying community as it continually seeks to understand scripture anew, placing “our hope in God alone”. (Prologue to the Rule).
ARTICLE 6: RELATIONSHIP WITH THE LARGER CHURCH
Recognizing the Benedictine character of Anglican spirituality, we understand ourselves to be connected to this tradition and its institutional expression. For this reason, we honor the Episcopal Church and the See of Canterbury in particular, while maintaining the ecumenical and international aspects of our stated vision and values.
ARTICLE 6: PRIOR AND COUNCIL OF PRIORS
Leadership or the Community rests in the Prior or Council of Priors (Leadership). Those serving in these capacities are confirmed in their roles at the annual General Chapter (see Article 13).
Priors must be either professed or life-professed members of the Community. They normally serve for a period of three years and are chosen by consensus of professed members of the Community. Priors may not serve consecutive terms but may serve multiple terms.
Leadership shall follow the servant-leadership model given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ who was healer, teacher, guide, servant, witness to the reign of God. Leadership are those who feed, who point to God, and who call out the best in others.
ARTICLE 8: TYPES OF INVOLVEMENT IN THE COMMUNITY Section 8.1: Inquirers.
Inquirers are curious about and interested in learning more about the Community. They may share in our weekly prayers and activities from time to time. They may or may not choose to come closer to the Community.
Inquirers are invited to write a letter of introduction to the Community, describing themselves, their interests, motives, and the reasons for their attraction to the Community. In this way, we get to know them better, make them feel welcome, and offer our support.
Section 8.2: Companions (active participants)
A. Companions are those who know the Community through participation in its activities and accompany the Community on an ongoing basis.
B. Companions often do specific or recommended readings on Benedictine life, new monasticism, or spiritual formation.
C. Companion status is indefinite and begins by the submitting a letter of admission to the Leadership. A professed member may petition Leadership to return to Companion status for personal reasons, illness, or change of relationship with the Community.
D. Companionship is renewed annually at the General Chapter.
E. Companions may apply for novice status after six months as a
Section 8.3: Novices
Novices are seriously testing a call to professed membership in the Community. This testing lasts for one year but can be extended if desired. Reversion to Companion status is also an option.
Aspiring novices must submit a letter of novitiate to Leadership. Each new novice will be assigned a companion or guide to walk with them in
their year of discernment and formation. New novices are normally welcomed as members of the Community at the annual General Chapter.
Section 8.4: Professed Members
A. Professed members commit to all practices and disciplines of the Community, participating in the weekly prayers and offices and the monthly meetings. They actively share their time, talents, and treasure with the Community, serving its vision and values as outlined in the Constitution.
B. Professed members serve for a period of from three to five years or until God calls them to greater or lesser vows/commitment, discerned in unity with Leadership. Professed members renew their vows each year until they discern a call to life profession. They may also choose to return to Companion status.
C. Every professed member must submit a letter to Leadership before the General Chapter, outlining his/her intentions and goals for the following year.
D. Professed members, with the permission of Leadership, may choose to wear a habit at important Community occasions.
E. A Novice who has completed at least a year of novitiate may be received as a professed member of the Community.
Section 8.5: Life-Professed Members
Life-professed members commit to all practices and disciplines of the Community for life, or until God calls elsewhere, to be discerned in unity with all Community members. They are regular participants in the weekly prayers and offices, and in monthly meetings. They dedicate their time, talent, and treasure to the Community’s vision and values as outlined in the Constitution.
Professed members may seek to become life-professed after completing from three to five years of active involvement in the Community. As with other changes in status, members seeking life-profession must submit a letter of intention to Leadership, outlining their intentions and goals for the following year.
C. Life-professed members may adopt a monastic name if they so choose.
Section 8.6: Inactive Members
In the spirit of flexibility, vowed members may request inactive status for a year, annually renewable for up to three years,
ARTICLE 9: PRIORIES OF THE COMMUNITY
The Leadership may designate and establish priories in particular geographic areas if there are at least three Companions and/or Community members living in near proximity. A priory participates in all of the regular prayer and monthly meetings of the Community and may also hold its own periodic gatherings.
ARTICLE 10: PRAYERS AND OFFICES
We gather online at various times each week to do the Opus Dei following Benedictine daily prayer practices. We schedule our common prayer at varying hours during the day and evening in order to include members in different time zones.
ARTICLE 11: GUIDANCE FOR STUDY AND REFLECTION
Section 11:1: Reflections. Designated members of the Community will periodically circulate reflections on the Rule and its values and will recommend sources for further study.
Section 11:2: Themes. Some of the major themes of Benedictine life include: prayer, service, community, conversion obedience, stability, balance, hospitality, study, zeal, undivided focus, daily rhythm, modestly, serenity, and meditation.
ARTICLE 12: CHAPTER
The Community gathers monthly in an online Chapter, called by Leadership. The schedule is adjusted from time to time to accommodate time zones.
ARTICLE 13: GENERAL CHAPTER
Once a year, the Community gathers in “real time” for the profession and renewal of vows and acceptance of new Companions and Novices into the
Community. The presider is a Leadership member but the Chapter may also be led by any professed member.
ARTICLE 14: THE BISHOP VISITOR
Section 14.1: Role. The Bishop Visitor is the guardian of the Community’s Constitution and the guarantor to the Church-at-Large of the Community’s sound administration, stability, and right to confidence. The Visitor is also the final court of appeals in disciplinary matters.
Section 14.2: Term. The Bishop Visitor’s term is limited to three years but may be renewed by mutual consent of the Leadership for up to ten years.
Section 14.3: Vacancy. If the office of Bishop Visitor should become vacant, the Leadership shall invite members of the Community to nominate possible candidates. The Leadership shall have sole authority to select a candidate from among those nominated.
ARTICLE 15: PROPERTY
The retention and safekeeping of the archive and temporal possessions of the Community is the sole responsibility of Leadership.
ARTICLE 16: SEPARATION FROM THE COMMUNITY
Section 16.1. Consultation. We recognize that the changes and chances of life may lead some members to leave the Community. Just as entering the Community should be done prayerfully and with consultation, departing the Community should also be done prayerfully and with consultation.
Section 16.2. Leave of absence. Members may seek a leave of absence for up to a one-year period, renewable for up to three years, to discern their continued status in the Community. Such members will be considered “inactive”.
Section 16.3. Dispensation. The Leadership shall consult with other professed members before granting a professed member permission to be dispensed from vows.
ARTICLE 17: DISCIPLINARY ACTION
Section 17.1. Cause. Any member is subject to dismissal for persistent
behavior that is inconsistent with, or disregards, the vision and values as 9
embraced by the Community’s Constitution. However, the Leadership shall make every reasonable effort to assist in correcting the erring member.
Section 17.2. Dismissal. If any erring member remains unresponsive or unwilling, the Leadership shall dismiss the member and so notify the Bishop Visitor.
Section 17.3. Restoration. Dismissed members may request to be restored. Restoration is not, however, automatic and the dismissed member must demonstrate a willingness to amend his/her ways and fully commit to the Community’s vision, values, and Constitution.
ARTICLE 18: SENIORITY
If a member is dismissed from the Community and then restored, or if a member becomes inactive and wishes to become active, his/her seniority may be adjusted at the discretion of the Leadership.
ARTICLE 19: DISSOLUTION OF THE COMMUNITY
Section 19.1. By vote. The decision to dissolve the Community shall be made by two-third vote of the professed members of the Community with the approval of the Bishop Visitor.
Section 19.2. Distribution of Property. In the event of dissolution, property held by the Community shall be distributed as follows: All tangible property shall be sold and monies realized therefrom shall be combined with all monies held in trusts or bank accounts into a single fund. After settling outstanding debts, the residue of the fund shall be divided into shares representing the number of members at the time of dissolution. These shares are to be presented to dioceses in which those members were resident according to the Canons of the Episcopal Church.
ARTICLE 20: AMENDMENT
This Constitution may be amended from time to time by two-thirds of professed members of the Community at the time the amendment(s) is considered.
ADOPTED AND RATIFIED THIS DAY OF BY: