The Community of the Holy Spirit is a women’s religious order rooted within the Christian tradition and the Episcopal Church. Around our evolving edge, however, is a relationship that we currently call “Resident Companionship”–for folks who are male or female, married or single, choosing to live alongside the Sisters of the order and share in their life and work (I myself live with the community as a Companion). We see this as an important evolutionary opening within monastic life and a possible vehicle for carrying it forward into the future.
As it stands, traditional monastic communities draw fewer and fewer vocations; at the same time, there is a growing conversation around neo-monasticism and intentional spiritual community. We at CHS recognize that many of the visionaries in this emerging conversation lack the structures and resources to manifest a community, while at the same time there are existing communities with structures and resources who lack vocations. Perhaps the universe is holding out the opportunity for an evolutionary pairing that can carry monastic life forward into the 21st century!
Our community is committed to living sustainably and healing the Earth, seeing this currently as our primary ministry. At our Bluestone Farm in Brewster, NY, we have organic/biodynamic gardens, milk cows, chickens, ducks, and honey bees (visit our website here). At the same time, our life together is held within the context of the Divine Offices–set times of gathering in chapel for chanting, prayer, and meditation. While our liturgies are deeply rooted in the Christian tradition, we have worked to set them (and our life as a whole) within the emerging “Universe Story” and “New Cosmology” and to update our language to be gender inclusive.
In addition to all of this, we have a large school facility on the property that has only recently closed. We are now re-envisioning it as a Center for Interspirituality and Sustainability. The community is deeply interested in how we can participate in the interspiritual currents that are currently shaping the spiritual landscape, and how our facilities can serve the emerging vision. While drawing deeply from our Christian contemplative heritage, our members also drink gratefully from other wells; one Sister is also a long-time Vedantist and devotee of Ramana Maharshi; another has found Buddhism deeply enriching; and for some time, the community has been enriched by the spirituality of Native traditions, most of our members having undertaken an individual four-day Vision Quest. We are excited to see how all of this could become more central to our mission.
We look forward to adding all of your voices to our conversation and visioning as we discern the way forward!
Thanks Matt! Wow, this is what we really want to see, and what a number among us are working to create– the beginning of places, structures, identities that fulfill Bro. Wayne’s call in TMH:
“The InterSpiritual Age will require institutions and structures to carry, express, and support it”
which is quoted as a lead-in Chapter quotation in The Coming Interspiritual Age. Amazing how we are just in the infancy of this process. It’s a mandate for everyone attracted to interspirituality to think creatively and even BIG. Expanding this mandate is what TCIA hopes to help nurture. Interesting to see, in reviews of TCIA the people who think this is “real” and those who think it is “wishful thinking”. It’s going to be interesting to see, right?
Another quote from Bro. Wayne, in his usually understated words– the first night we talked about interspirituality after I met him: “This interspirituality thing is going to become big over the next decades. Perhaps we can be a part of that”.
I also belong to a traditional Episcopal community for women that is stretching its wings. It is really exciting to me to see how two passions I have–new monasticism and interspirituality–go together. For some years, we have been working here at CSJB to expand our concept of how we are to include Affiliates, and most particularly those who live on the property. One of the projects which is nearing completion is a new apartment in our retreat house which is being built by an Oblate couple, a husband and wife who want to be able to take advantage of the spirituality of this place by actually living here. Some of us sisters have been working on how to incorporate our Oblates who are resident here by meeting in small groups and discussing whatever material we can find on new monasticism that pertains to us. Most particularly, we have studied “The New Monasticism” by John Michael Talbot. Like CHS, we are trying to build on top of a traditional religious order rather than start up from scratch. We sing traditional Offices and have a daily Eucharist.
At the same time, it is noticeable that non-traditional retreat and prayer groups tend to have the most life. More and more, I think in terms of interspirituality as I observe what is going on. Three of our regular groups are yoga, Centering Prayer, and labyrinth walks. One of our best retreat groups consists of Jewish leaders belonging to the Jewish renewal movement. Every day, they practice yoga. Their leader has a background in Sufi practice. Last month, we hosted a group of 30 poets, most of them SBNR or recovering Catholics of some ilk. I myself have realized that I am both a Christian and a Vedantin in equal measure. I am looking at how all that is happening here goes together and how it may help us to have a future as a sacred space for people to visit.
Although Matt’s community has a somewhat different emphasis, we are both part of the new monastic and interspiritual movement, I believe. It is important to keep in touch.