Foreword to the Anglican Religious Life Year Book, 2004-05 (4th edition)

by Most Revd Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

In 2000, I had the pleasure of speaking at the special Millennium Conference of Anglican Religious in Swanwick, and meeting members of many different communities from several provinces of the Anglican Communion. It gave me an opportunity to tell them of my belief that the role of Religious communities is to be places of joy.

And joy is something that the Church needs to recover. Not the short-lived euphoria or happiness which may co-exist with malaise, but the deep sense of gratitude that ought to underpin all aspects of our life in the Church.

Religious communities may have the same problems as the Church, for they too may suffer tension and distraction. Yet they can, and should, remind the Church of its character, for in the vows Religious take, they echo the Beatitudes and ‘renounce territory’ and thereby abandon the anxiety over ‘succeeding’. The Church at large can not hold on to a commitment to hear the Gospel of God’s faithfulness unless it has particular places which hold joy. Whatever else communities may do or achieve, this is their true purpose.

I welcome therefore the publication of this fourth edition of the Anglican Religious Communities Year Book, showing the extent and variety of the Religious life in the Anglican Communion. For as places of joy, Religious communities can help recall the Church to something fundamental in our lives as Christians.