The Religious life is way of living the Christian life. It is a particular way of living out the call to be a Christian and for a person to live out their baptismal promises. It is not therefore something exotic. At root this life is a call to prayer and service. God has called many people through the centuries to the life of a ‘Religious’. To those who hear such a call, it is demanding yet joyful, a way to find God and relate to the challenges of our 21st-century society.
Religious live each day focused on God and do so in a distinctive way. For support – and so as to ask for much-needed help from God – they take vows or promises to God. These vows can take different forms and are the mark of monks and nuns, friars and sisters. The vows all include: living a simple life sharing possessions (poverty); refraining from sexual or exclusive relationships (chastity); setting aside the freedom to do as we please and instead committing to listening to others (obedience). All these vows involve deep and positive values of attending to God and living together.
Among Anglicans, there were no nuns and monks until the 1840s. Then the revival of Religious communities was embraced as a way of mission and service. Of the many communities founded, some pioneered nursing or education for the poor, or reached out to wayfarers, others concentrated on evangelistic work both in the UK and overseas. All led a dedicated life of prayer alongside their ministries, and some developed into places devoted to prayer alone.
Religious life has always come in different forms. Today that is still true. Most communities are women only or men only; some include both men and women. Some wear distinctive clothes (a ‘habit’), others do not. Some concentrate on ministries among the poor and others in need, whilst others are called to serve through concentrating on a life of prayer. Members of communities can be lay or ordained. In brief, God can be found in many ways; God can be served in many ways.
Community life – like family life – is not always easy, but the practice of loving forgiveness builds bonds that go beyond difference. This is a witness to a fragmented and divided society.
How to explore a vocation
The best way forward for anyone interested in the life is to visit different communities and experience the way of life as a visitor first. Many communities provide opportunities for people to live alongside them for longer periods of time. Participants commit to helping with the work of the monastery or community – and there is no obligation to join the community afterwards unless the person wishes to explore further.
Click on the diagram to expand, or read the text below.
- Anglican Religious Life Yearbook website
- Community websites
- Anglican Religious Communities (ARC) website
- Email ARC
- Contact Vocations / Spirituality Advisor
- Talk to knowledgeable people – local priest, others at church, spiritual companion / director
- Get in touch with one or several communities and arrange to stay as a guest
- You would usually contact the bookings person, or the Superior
- Visit and experience life in a community as a guest
- Talk to members of the community
Experience the Life
- Discuss experiences so far with advisors
- Stay with a community for a set period
- Join an Alongsider programme
- Ask to test your vocation, usually by becoming a novice
Throughout the whole process, keep praying and reflecting
The Directory section of this website lists all the recognised and acknowledged communities throughout the Anglican Communion, together with their website addresses and contact details. It also includes a glossary of terms used by many Religious communities.