“The Liturgy of the Palms” in the Monastery Cloister Garden on Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020.  Pictured: Br. Todd Blackham (Deacon), Br. Lucas Hall (Subdeacon), Br. Geoffrey Tristram (Presider), and Br. Jim Woodrum (Thurifer).

Why Church Matters: Cowley Magazine - Spring 2020

We invite you to explore the Spring 2020 issue of Cowley Magazine, which takes up the topic of Why Church Matters. We hope this issue will invite you to discover the sacred in the everyday.

Explore the online magazine, view selected articles below, or download a PDF.

Angels in the Architecture

By Br. Jim Woodrum

“Every part of these churches seemed to point deeper into the mystery of God, with the angels beckoning me to follow.”

In this Monastic Wisdom reflection on “Angels in the Architecture,” Br. Jim Woodrum follows the angels toward a deeper appreciation of why our church buildings matter and how they can help us to become one with the angels.

The Beauty of Holiness

By Br. Curtis Almquist

“Beauty is not functional; beauty is redolent and transformative.”

Br. Curtis Almquist opens the door to the transformative holiness of beauty (and the beauty of holiness).

Fashioned in the Sound of God

By Br. Sean Glenn

“We are each a word and a Wong of God.”

Br. Sean Glenn celebrates the power of sound and song to turn our hearts to their source.


By Br. James Koester

“Worship at its best is a dangerous activity.”

Br. James Koester marvels at the power of worship not simply to engage us or draw us into the life of God, but to change us.

God Making Room

By Br. Jonathan Maury

“Church is a sacrament of the divine gifts of time and space.”

Br. Jonathan Maury recovers the amazing gifts of time and space, whereby God makes room and humans can encounter the divine.

Why Church Matters: Cowley Spring 2020

By Curator

Why Church Matters: Cowley Magazine – Spring 2020 We invite you to explore the Spring 2020 issue of Cowley Magazine, which takes up the topic of Why Church Matters. We hope this issue will invite you to discover the sacred in the everyday. Explore the online magazine, view selected articles below, or download a PDF.

Have your Lenten goals been overshadowed by COVID-19? Many of us are struggling simply to find normalcy during these unsettling times – to say nothing of approaching the season of Lent with the purpose and intention with which we began it. To that end, we’re happy to share a recent piece by Br. Jim Woodrum on “The Monastic Discipline of Temptation,” which was recently published in the online magazine Earth & Altar. We hope this might invite you to re-embrace your intentions for this Lenten season in a meaningful way.

The Monastic Discipline of Temptation: Why did Jesus face temptation for forty days in the desert? And what has led centuries of monastics to follow him there, seeking to confront their own temptations? In “The Monastic Discipline of Temptation,” Br. Jim Woodrum stalks temptation out into the desert, seeking to understand its true nature. By studying the Christian monastic tradition, he discovers that temptation not something to be avoided, but actually something to be faced – even embraced. Temptation is a tool, by which we can discover what separates us from the love of God. When we study our own temptations, we can strengthen ourselves against their advances. This Lent, Br. Jim invites us to take up the discipline of temptation as monks do, following it as a path to self-knowledge and, eventually, a gateway into a deeper love of God.

Earlier this month, Br. David Vryhof was pleased to be a guest on the “Red Church Door” podcast, talking about God’s invitation to repentance. Follow the link to listen to the full episode (Br. David’s segment starts around minute 20).

From the Red Church Door: “Repentance is a subject that contemporary religion often shies away from. At the same time, there seems to be a natural, human hunger for reflection, recognition of our sins and weaknesses, and repentance. What is the process of repentance? What spiritual practices of repentance bring us closer to God — and why does repentance still matter? Colin’s guests for this episode are, Br. David Vryhof, from Society of St John the Evangelist (SSJE) in Cambridge, MA and the Rev. Sandi Albom, Chaplain and Spiritual Director at The Plymouth House in Plymouth, NH.”

The Community was pleased to celebrate the clothing of Br. Todd Blackham on Sunday, March 15. While we regretted that the wider public was not able to share with us in the joyful event, it remains a sign of promising and hopeful new life, even in such challenging times. We wish Br. Todd joy as he enters into the next chapter of his religious vocation.

We are delighted to announce that Todd Blackham will be clothed as a novice in our Society at Evening Prayer on Sunday, 15 March (4:00 PM). This is a very moving rite of initiation into our Community, as a man puts on the habit, thus marking him as a member of our Community. All are welcome to attend.

Signs of Life

The SSJE Community’s Lenten program, “Signs of Life: Why Church Matters,” is now available for individuals and groups at www.signsoflife.org.  The program, a joint effort with the Lifelong Learning Center at the Virginia Theological Seminary, examines five themes – Light, Water, Food, Shelter, and Community – in the light of scripture, the Christian liturgical tradition, and Christian spiritual practice. It seeks to explore the deep meaning embedded in the Church’s sacraments, symbols and practices.  A 15-minute video has been produced for each theme, accompanied by two Facilitator’s Guides, one for use with a large class or adult forum, the other for smaller groups that invites more personal sharing.  Gather a group of friends (or choose a prayer partner) to watch the weekly video, and use the Facilitator’s Guide to discuss the theme.  It’s free and easily downloadable. 

Monastic Residency Program to launch in Fall 2020

Many of you will know that for several years we have hosted residential interns. In the Fall of 2020 we will launch a new version of this program specifically designed for graduate students and seminarians. This nine-month residency is for students (both men and women), aged 21 or older, enrolled in full-time graduate study, who would also value living, praying, and working alongside our community for an academic year. Details, and an initial application, are on our website at www.SSJE.org/residency. Questions? Contact us at residency@ssje.org

One of the three monastic vows, celibacy can be a confusing subject. While few are called to practice Christian celibacy, it can offer meaning, clarity, and encouragement to all. Br. Lucas Hall invites us to discover in the witness of celibacy the invitation to surrender ourselves in trust, wholly and joyfully, to God’s love. 

Explore the topic of celibacy through Lucas’ reflection, suggested practices, reflection questions, and further resources. 

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