Welcome to the Society of Saint John the Evangelist

03: Our Founders and the Grace of Tradition

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Read by Br. Keith Nelson

Just as we believe that our Society had its origin in the response to God’s creative call of our founders Richard Meux Benson, Charles Chapman Grafton and Simeon Wilberforce O’Neill, so we believe that it is sustained through our own obedience to the voice of God continually calling us on.God speaks to us in many ways to maintain and renew the vocation of the Society.God speaks to us through the Scriptures and the Christian tradition, through men and women of the Spirit of different ages and cultures, through our own experience and through contemporary voices that engage us with the challenges of our own time.Among the many voices that mediate God’s call to us, the witness of our founders and predecessors in the Society has a special importance.

God calls us to remember them and to value their testimony.Reflection on our community’s own tradition, and a dialogue between our contemporary experience and that of our predecessors, helps us to sustain our identity as we strive to rise up to the demands of the present.As we explore the spiritual legacy of our forbears we remember that they are not dead figures from the past.Risen in Christ, they belong to the great cloud of witnesses who spur us on by their prayers to change and mature in response to the Holy Spirit who makes all things new.

Faithfulness to tradition does not mean mere perpetuation or copying of ways from the past but a creative recovery of the past as a source of inspiration and guidance in our faithfulness to God’s future, the coming reign of God.As we meditate on the grace of tradition each of us will hear the call to become, in Father Benson’s words, “a man – not simply of the day, but a man of the moment, a man precisely up to the mark of the times.This makes the religious – so far from being the tradi­tional imitator of bygone days – most especially a man of the present moment and its life.”

Our Society was the first religious community of men to be firmly established in the Anglican Church since the Reformation and embraced from the beginning both the contemplative and active dimensions of the religious vocation.As we struggle with God’s call to us today to be active in ministry, prophecy, teaching and service, and to have a deep life of prayer and worship, we shall find encouragement in remembering the example of our forbears in their dedication to the mystical and apostolic aspects of our calling.

There are many aspects to the witness of those who formed our Society’s tradition.Their lives inspire us to be indifferent to celebrity and success and to trust the power of hidden prayer. They stir us to be prophetic critics of Christendom and its compromises and to be dedicated to the renewal of the Church.They summon us to have a world-wide vision of mission, to be adaptable to a wide variety of settings, to be available in ministry to all classes of people.They teach us to integrate the catholic and evangelical traditions and dedicate ourselves to the ministry of reconcil­iation and unity.

Inevitably, the Society’s past is also marred by many failures.God will have much to teach us through them, as long as we humbly keep in mind our own biases and shortcomings.

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3 Comments

  1. Judi Appel on March 22, 2017 at 07:12

    How inspiring to read of monasteries that reach us in the millennial age and help us to keep learning from the traditions that are not “dead letters of the law” but tools that bring us face to face with Jesus, ourselves and other human beings so that we can be transformed. Thank you for sharing your rule of life so that I can more fully understand the mystical and the practical, which really are not separate experiences.

  2. Aaron S. on March 5, 2010 at 03:12

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  3. Polly Henninger on February 28, 2009 at 02:10

    One of the most affirming and nurturing aspects of worship at the monastery for me is that the experience doesn’t pull me to a particular point of view or religious slant. I feel broadened and my faith feels unbounded, unfettered by the tradition. Indeed this is the grace of the tradition. This reading reminded me that the inclusivity I experience is intentionally the aim of the Founders of the Society and the Brothers. The inclusiveness and integration of the mystical and aspostolic, and of the catholic and evangelical traditions, makes partisanship impossible. The deliberate effort to bring these together in a dialectical experience opens an expanse in the midst in which many variants can co-exist without activating a competitive or anxious response. This is truly liberating and deepening. Thank you, Eldridge, for your careful and thoughtful reading which made me realize why I feel free and comfortable to invite people, without worry or concern for their religious persuasions, to worship at the monastery with me and the Brothers.

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