A rule, from the Latin regula, suggests not so much a code of legislation but a means of regulating and regularizing. A monastic rule sustains identity by mandating the rhythms of worship, spiritual discipline, prayer and rest, work and ministry. It sets the patterns by which authority is distributed and where accountability is expected. It delineates the bounds of the community and describes the processes of initiation. And it connects the ideals of the particular community or order with the gospel and the Christian mystery.
Our Rule is a contemporary one, created by the Society of Saint John the Evangelist over a period of eight years and formally adopted in September 1996. It replaces the original Rule, written by our founder in the 19th century. While it draws on the teaching of Richard Benson and other early members, the new rule addresses a whole host of issues that we knew to be vital for the health and faithfulness of a community making the transition into the third millennium. It is an authentic expression of our life for today, both who we are and who we hope to be.
Our sole motive in creating a new Rule of life was to strengthen our own community and our awareness of the particular vocation that God has given us; in other words, we produced it specifically for ourselves. Friends urged us to publish it for those who know us and who are seeking a deeper understanding of a way of life to which they feel attuned. And we offer it for those who do not know us yet, but who, in this time of widespread spiritual hunger when the monastic way is exerting a considerable pull on people’s imagination and interest, seek a window into the life of a contemporary religious community.
The response to its publication has been overwhelmingly positive. Roman Catholic and Anglican religious communities on both sides of the Atlantic have welcomed it, in some instances using it to enhance the teaching of their own Rules. And large numbers of men and women of a variety of faith communities in their daily meditations have drawn strength and renewal from its teachings.