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28 September 2017 7pm - 9pm

There is at present a lively interest in the monastic and religious way of life and the wisdom that this tradition speaks into contemporary society. This interest is particularly notable amongst young adults (18-44)*, a group which is increasingly absent from traditional forms of church. In the city of Ely, the largest demographic is people aged 30-44 (Census 2011).

New Monastic communities include a stronger focus on intentional community, patterns of prayer, contemplation, hospitality and practical engagement in mission beyond themselves. Differences arise according to size, level of recognition from the wider church and gathered or dispersed patterns. They also depend on which monastic tradition is the source of inspiration and wisdom - ie, Celtic, Benedictine and Franciscan. Above all, each new monastic group will have its own particular calling and charism that reflect these variables. New expressions of monastic rules and ways of life are springing up around the country, and a 'renewal of prayer and the religious life' is a key theme of the Archbishops strategic priorities.

This is seen in communities such as:

The Community of St Anselm: Canterbury, (2015) The Community of St Chad: Lichfield (2012) The Community of St Jude: London (2005) The Community of St Aiden and St Hilda: Lindisfarne (1994), Peregrini Community: Manchester (2014), Community of the Tree of Life: Leicester (2017), Way2 Community: Truro Diocese (2017).

After researching these communities we have found that some are allied to diocesan strategies, some to cathedrals and churches and some independent fresh expressions of church. They all celebrate the local. They are often founded on the life, teaching and example of saints and holy people in specific contexts who witnessed to Christ. They are founded on strong inherited traditions of prayer, but have responded to the context and needs of 21st Century life. Within Ely Diocese, we have a strong foundation on which to explore creating such a community: St Etheldreda and a long established outworking of the Benedictine Tradition.

It is worth noting that many of the new monastic communities are linked to Diocesan Internship Programs and growing Young Vocations and this is something which could be built on in the Community of St Etheldreda. We have already received interest from ordinands, curates and those exploring various forms of ministry. Additionally, like the Community of St Anselm, the Community of St Etheldreda could be a praying community - praying for the Bishop and the Diocese, as well as giving central diocesan staff a place to come together for prayer. We are keen the community is a place for new Christians and those exploring their faith, and more established Christians who want to grow in discipleship and are open to learning.

A Community like this links well with the Ely 2025 - Fully Alive Strategy and could well be linked to the Diocesan Way of Life. The New Monastic approach speaks into the Church of England's current Renewal and Reform agenda as its practices and charism may be a prophetic reminder of the Church's vocation, just as traditional Monasticism has and continues to be throughout the ages. However, this approach is available to a diverse group, not just those who are called to the religious life.

Details about the Community of St Etheldreda can be found here.