Cowley Magazine – Community

What does it mean to belong? This issue of Cowley investigates how we claim and form our identity in community with others. The Brothers of SSJE ask what it means to be Christian, how community can transform us, and how the Sacraments of the Church hone who we are becoming in Christ.

This issue is the third of a three-part series on "What does it mean to be the Church today?" Check out the other two issues on:

  • Credo - What does it mean to believe? 
  • Challenge - How does God engage with us? 

Selected Articles

Letter from the Deputy Superior – Advent 2022

By Br. Keith Nelson

“It is humbling to know and feel that we belong: that the threads of our being are woven into a fabric so much bigger than we can comprehend, and all for the fulfillment of God’s purpose.”

Letter from the FSJ – Jane Shaw

By Curator

“The notion of being knit together in communion and fellowship has begun to take on new meaning in the light of my spiritual quest during this pandemic time.”

Communities of Transformation

By Br. Todd Blackham

“Community is more than a simple affinity group; it offers a way of becoming more fully who God has created us to be.”

An Open Letter to Those Who are Spiritual-Not-Religious

By Br. Michael Hardgrove

“When we stand in the mess of life with others, acting in love for the sake of Christ, we can get a taste of the divine life now.”

Letter from the Editor – Advent 2022

By Br. Jim Woodrum

“Life in community teaches us about the love and grace of God as it helps us to grow into the fullness of our place in the Body of Christ: accepting our limitations, giving freely of ourselves when we see a need, and recognizing that we belong to one another through our  Baptism.”

Belonging: Living in God’s Contentment

By Br. Geoffrey Tristram

“Through faith we can come to know again the original blessing of belonging to God and recover that divine contentment which is God’s desire for us.”

Identity & Belonging in the Great Sacraments

By Br. Jim Woodrum

“As a follower of Jesus with my own diverse and at times complicated identity, where and how do I belong in this equally diverse and complicated realm of Christianity and the Church? And what does such “belonging” entail?”

Formation in Practice – Advent 2022

By Curator

“We hope that in reflecting further on the topic of belonging, you will find it meaningful to share in discussing these questions with others.”

Cowley Magazine – Challenge

How does God engage with us? This issue of Cowley magazine discovers God’s engagement in places we might not think to look: a childhood stutter; the calling of sickness; the heartbreaking challenge of climate grief. The SSJE Brothers invite us to explore the many ways God that engages us, even – perhaps especially – in the challenges we face.

This issue is the second of a three-part series on "What does it mean to be the Church today?" Check out the other two issues on:

  • Credo - What does it mean to believe? 
  • CommunityWhat does it mean to belong?

Selected Articles

Letter from the Superior – Ascension 2022

By Br. James Koester

“These have indeed been challenging times for all of us, but when we review those challenges calmly, dispassionately, dutifully, we may discover that God’s invitation lies within.”

Letter from the FSJ – Tammy Iralu

By Curator

“Here, at the intersection of pain and hope, we find the place from which we all, like flowers, can turn toward the light.”

“But I am slow of speech and slow of tongue”: Engaging with God in Challenge

By Br. Jack Crowley

“It may sound crazy to say that I am grateful to God for my stutter, but it is true. Looking back at my life, I can see how God has engaged with me through the challenges I faced.”

Sufficient Grace: Praying with the Calling of Sickness

By Br. Sean Glenn

“There is an unexpected invitation in our sufferings. This invitation is to know ourselves as participants in Christ’s life and love; to know in the midst of pain that God has not withdrawn from us, but has perhaps instead come closer than we could ever imagine.”

Letter from the Editor – Ascension 2022

By Curator

“As we struggle, we shall become more and more the person God created us to be.”

Between Good & Evil: The Practice of Spiritual Discernment

By Br. David Vryhof

“The spiritual skill of discernment enables us not only to resist the lure of those voices that would distract and distance us from God, but also to perceive directly God’s engagement with us in the circumstances of our lives as we navigate the many decisions that crop up along our way.”

A Heart of Flesh in Place of Stone: God-with-us in the Midst of Climate Grief

By Br. Keith Nelson

“What if the awakening of our conscience to profound new layers of the world’s pain is a sign – not of God’s absence, but of the Spirit of God excavating strata of our personhood and our collective attention that we are now called to engage? And what if the path of grief thus sensed could become a sober and conscious choice – claimed and lived, come what may, as the cost of our full becoming?”

Formation in Practice

By Curator

“Think about the struggles that you are facing right now. How might you embrace them as the place of God’s engagement with you? How is God calling to you through them?”

Cowley Magazine – Credo

What does it mean to believe? This issue of Cowley magazine explores this timeless question though Scripture, spiritual practice, the Catechism, mystery, and the arts. However you experience and express your belief, one thing becomes clear: Faith and belief are verbs.

This issue is the first of a three-part series on "What does it mean to be the Church today?" Check out the other two issues on:

Selected Articles

Letter from the Superior – Epiphany 2022

By Br. James Koester

“By inviting you to explore what it means to believe, it is our hope that you will be more “ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).”

Letter from the FSJ – Jennifer Strawbridge

By Curator

“Believing is an action we do, not a noun that we possess. As a verb, believing not only demands something from us, but also involves a relationship with someone else in whom we trust.”

Praying with the Old Testament

By Br. Lucas Hall

“The whole of scripture is a gift from God. Though it can be daunting and challenging, engaging with the Old Testament as a wellspring of prayer can illumine truths about God, the Church, and ourselves, in ways we may never expect.”

Letter from the Editor

By Br. Jim Woodrum

“Perhaps our belief is the greatest mystery of all.”

Questioning the Faith: A View Through the Prayerbook Catechism

By Br. Jonathan Maury

“The Catechism provides a way into a prayerful and faithful pondering of and responding to ultimate questions in religious belief.”

We Need More Than Spirituality: Practicing the Presence of God

By Br. Curtis Almquist

“We have been given the gift of life, all of which we are invited to practice in God’s presence.”

Formation in Practice

By Curator

“We invite you to plunge deeper into your own assumptions about what it means to believe. Use these questions to spur your reflection & prayer, or in conversation with others.”

Cowley Magazine – Fall 2021

Cowley Magazine - Fall 2021

What does Christian hospitality look like now, and what can it teach us in its forms both old and new? In the fall issue of Cowley, the Brothers of SSJE consider how hospitality has been shaken and reshaped by the pandemic. Hospitality might look like an invitation to sit down at table with those who are other; sharing a safe space for grief; being someone else's guest; readiness to go where God is calling next; or a reminder that we all have a home in the household of God.

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

Letter from the Superior – Fall 2021

By Br. James Koester

“As we have shifted our ministry of hospitality online, our hope is that some of the markers which we value, and you cherish, are just as tangible as they are when you are here in person.”

Letter from the FSJ – Fall 2021

By Curator

“Christian hospitality can transcend social interaction of the worldly sort in all kinds of wordless ways, and do so in a way that plants the seeds of the gospel deeply in the soul.”

Breaking Bread: How Eating Together Makes Us Whole

By Br. Curtis Almquist

“The invitation of the table can invite us beyond our boundaries. To share food is an experience of being one with another. This opens a possibility to find commonality with those with whom we might disagree. To sit at table with others is to experience the humanity that we share, even with those whom we might consider as ‘other.’”

Monastic Hospitality: A Way Forward After Covid

By Br. James Koester

“So, what might hospitality look like after Covid? It will be shaped by – and need to respond to – grief, loss, trauma, and dislocation. It will have the power to change, convert, and challenge us in ways we cannot now even begin to imagine. It will be rooted in hope and prayer. It will befriend death. And through it, we will continue to meet the Risen Christ, present in all who come to us, bringing us his promised ‘Peace.’”

Being a Guest: Lessons in Receiving Hospitality

By Br. Luke Ditewig

“I am a better host than guest. It’s easier for me to give than receive. A lesson I keep learning is that we are all God’s guests, especially in what appears to be our home.”

Eternity in this Moment: The Spirit of Readiness in the Age of Covid-19

By Br. Jim Woodrum

“Fr. Benson’s guidance is to find yourself at home in all situations where God has called you. Peering through the Victorian language, we hear him tell us, ‘Life happens; things are as they are. Find the possibilities in each moment and situation.’”

Colombian Hospitality: The Gift of a New Community

By Br. Geoffrey Tristram

“The doors of God’s very home have been flung open for us, and we have been welcomed with open arms of love: ‘Mi casa es su casa’!”

Discernment Process: A Conversation about Vocations

By Br. Lucas Hall

“For many, this season of enforced isolation – or at least of change in work or schooling – has suddenly brought into clearer focus a sense of values: What do I actually want to do with my life? How do I want to live? And why?”

Listen in on the full conversation, or read an excerpt.

Cowley Magazine – Summer 2021

Cowley Magazine - Summer 2021

This issue of Cowley is devoted to the connected dynamics of power, authority, and obedience. As the pandemic has unmasked many inequalities in society, we have seen and experienced what happens when the balance between power and empowerment, authority and authoritarianism results in division and dominance rather than reconciliation and cooperation. It is our hope that these reflections, rooted in our monastic tradition of obedience, will help in some small way as we practice the art of listening to one another deeply, and with open hearts and minds.

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

Letter from the Superior – Summer 2021

By Br. James Koester

“It is not an accident that this issue of Cowley is devoted to these connected dynamics of power, authority, and obedience. Nor do I believe that it is an accident that, in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, these issues have been thrust onto center stage.”

Letter from the FSJ – Summer 2021

By Curator

“My experience of church people is that we are sometimes more afraid of our own power than we are at risk of becoming Machiavellian.”

Slow & Steady: A Novice’s View of Power & Authority

By Br. Jack Crowley

“I went through thousands of moments like that in my early days as a Postulant: long moments of waiting for someone with authority to swoop in and tell me exactly what to do. It took me a long time to realize that was not the way authority was exercised at SSJE.”

Finding Holiness in the Sanctuary of Difference

By Br. Geoffrey Tristram

“Each one of us lives in various circles of society, whether they be our family, our community, or our place of work, and I bet that each one of us can think of at least one person who annoys or irritates us, and whom we sometimes wish would just simply go away! If we are trying to follow Jesus Christ, our challenge is to use the power that we have been given to build up community and not break it down, to learn how to live with the other rather than trying to exclude them and wishing they would just disappear.”

The Conversion of Fear into Power

By Br. Curtis Almquist

“In virtually every page of the Bible, there is a supernatural manifestation of power, the intervention or infusion of God’s power in everyday life. And yet, power, without an acknowledgment of its source and its end, is simply privilege unrecognized by the beholder but patently obvious to the dispossessed. Howard Thurman writes, “too often the weight of the Christian movement has been on the side of the strong and the powerful, and against the weak and oppressed – this, despite the gospel.” Consider Jesus’ promise of power.”

Authority in the Kingdom of God

By Br. Nicholas Bartoli

“Instead of falling prey to the lure of the Tyrant, we can embrace our wise and benevolent internal Ruler. Jesus said “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work” (John 4:34). Following the Way of Jesus, we learn that our own nourishment, too, comes from submitting to God’s will. It’s only in this way that we will find our inner Ruler. The more completely we surrender to God’s will, the more our inner authority will reflect the truth of who we are in Christ.”

Bound Together by Christ’s Loving Authority

By Br. Jonathan Maury

“I’d like to offer here a collection of some of the teachings from our Rule of Life which have most struck and stayed with me over decades of living and learning with this text. Of all its many topics, the Rule is particularly rich in its teachings navigating the challenges and rewards of life in community. These teachings point the way ahead for all of us who are trying to live together in recognition of the fact that we are bound to one another by Christ’s loving authority.”

Cowley Magazine – Winter 2021

Cowley Magazine - Winter 2021

We invite you to explore the Winter 2021 issue of Cowley Magazine, which takes up the topic of Incarnation in the Digital Age. We hope that, in these pages, you will experience the many ways that God is moving among us as we pray alone, gather online, long for communion, and even experience God's absence.

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

I Will Take You To Myself

By Br. Sean Glenn

Br. Sean Glenn marvels at the incredible, redemptive promise of the Incarnation, when God shared our tent in the wilderness.

Letter from the Superior – Winter 2021

By Br. James Koester

“We long for the day when we can safely reopen the Guesthouse and Chapel, and welcome you back to share with us in this holy place. In the meantime, know how grateful we are for your abiding friendship. We pray for you constantly.”

Letter from the FSJ – Scott Christian

By Curator

“The same longing and affection expressed by Paul in his letter arose in me upon seeing Brother Curtis’ and Todd’s warm smiles and hearing their heartfelt expressions of love for all of us FSJ members, who appeared as tiny passport-sized photos on the screen. In the ancient world, a letter conveyed the personal presence of the one who sent it; and so too I certainly felt Curtis’ and Todd’s presence through this electronic medium.”

Praying Alone, Together

By Br. Lucas Hall

“I know what it’s like to struggle in prayer: alone, before I came into community; and even now, in community, in light of the current circumstances. At this time, when so many Christians have found themselves in unchosen isolation, it’s helpful to delve into the Church’s theological understanding of what it means to pray alone, especially by venturing outside our own time and place to understand very different perspectives from our own.”

Dining at the Table of the Lord

By Br. James Koester

“Over the last months we may have been cut off from the eucharistic life of the Church, but God Emmanuel has still been with us. God’s invitation to discover our place as baptized members of the Body of Christ has still been offered. God’s gift of hope has still been drawing us deeper into the very heart of God. And, God has set other tables before us, and has fed us in wonderful and surprising ways.”

Absence Makes the Heart Grow

By Br. Keith Nelson

“If the feeling of absence in our lives has anything to do with the purposes of God, growth will be its gift, but not in a way we can predict or even recognize. This has been the experience of many saints, whose patient endurance through the night of God’s felt absence has catalyzed their growth, not in fondness but in holiness.”

Playing Bodies, Praying Bodies

By Br. Luke Ditewig

“Play is not an activity but a state of mind core to our biology. Play and creativity naturally open nonlinear ways to discover and express ourselves in prayer, and to hear God. It is not all nice and positive. Play helps express pain and sputtering emotions, without having to speak. Praying with playful movement and other arts is something anybody can do. This is healing for the weary, worn, and grieving.”

Fall Cowley: Answering God’s Call


We invite you to explore the Fall 2020 issue of Cowley Magazine, which takes up the topic of Answering God’s Call. We hope that, in these pages, you will discover an underlying wisdom which you can adopt as you make your own prudent and wise decisions in the uncertain, challenging days and months ahead.

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

We’d love to know your thoughts about this issue of Cowley. Leave a comment here.

Cowley Magazine – Fall 2020

Cowley Magazine - Fall 2020

We invite you to explore the Fall 2020 issue of Cowley Magazine, which takes up the topic of Answering God's Call. We hope that, in these pages, you will discover an underlying wisdom which you can adopt as you make your own prudent and wise decisions in the uncertain, challenging days and months ahead.

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

Why Monks Matter

By Br. James Koester

Br. James Koester & Br. Jim Woodrum trace the essential outlines of the monastic life and suggest how these principles can help the rest of us – beyond the Monastery – to live lives of love, purpose, and meaning.

What Is God’s Call?

By Br. Lucas Hall

When we feel paralyzed, when we feel impotent, when we feel stuck, what is God’s call to us?

Making Meaning

By Br. Curtis Almquist

Meaning-making happens in the context of life as it is – not as it was, or could be, or as we may think it should be, but in life as it is.

The Call of Christ in Our Time: Guidance for Christian Leaders

By Br. David Vryhof

We need God and other people to reveal to us the invitation or opportunity embedded in each of today’s stark challenges.

Swimming in Meaning, Rooted in God: A conversation about vocation with Br. Keith Nelson

By Br. Keith Nelson

I had a really wonderful day with God in this community yesterday; let’s do it again today.

Renewing Our Foundations: Cowley Summer 2020

Renewing Our Foundations: Cowley Magazine - Summer 2020

We invite you to explore the Summer 2020 issue of Cowley Magazine, which takes up the topic of Renewing Our Foundations. We Brothers want to share a few of the realizations – lessons and challenges – that have come out of this past year of reflection together. We hope that some of what we’ve gleaned from this year will prove helpful to you as you tackle continuity and change within your own communities, large and small.

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

A Spiritual Communion

By Br. James Koester

The ancient tradition of the Church reminds us that when it is impossible to be present at a celebration of the Eucharist, and to receive Holy Communion, the desire to be united to Christ in the Sacrament is enough for God to grant all the spiritual benefits of Communion. What follows is a way for individuals, or small groups to open themselves up to the graces of Holy Communion and the blessing of God.

Lifelong Formation

By Br. Jonathan Maury

Our brotherhood – as a particular manifestation of the body of Christ – is not static but continuously adapting, renewing, and affirming the charism given our predecessors.

Looking Back to Look Forward

By Br. James Koester

We need to know our histories; to drink deeply enough that we are refreshed, but not so deeply as to become bloated and unable to move.

Taking Risks

By Br. David Vryhof

What risks do we need to take to be faithful to God’s call in our own time?

Our Being “Men of the Moment”

By Br. Curtis Almquist

Far from being the traditional imitators of bygone days, we are to be “men of the present moment and its life.” What does the present moment invite?

Monastic Renewal

By Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Will we as a society discover a new strength and collective vision for the future?

Using a Facilitator

By Br. Luke Ditewig

Listening is one of the most important gifts we can give to ourselves and to others.

The Quest for Intimacy

By Br. Jim Woodrum

Even though we have taken a vow of celibacy, we recognize our own need for intimacy.

A Prophetic Voice from the Margins

By Br. Nicholas Bartoli

A prophetic voice can be seen as both calling from the wilderness or the margins, and calling us to the margins.

Histories of Transmission

By Br. Keith Nelson

Each generation must interpret the tradition so that it speaks a living Word.

Community and Chaos

By Br. Lucas Hall

In this process of discussion, I am learning how to love without agreement.

Communities as Storied Places

By Br. Sean Glenn

The unique threads of our individual lives begin to weave a compelling tapestry as we find our varied strands used by God to fashion a work of art and life larger than our individual lives could show forth. 

Learning to Live in Community

By Br. Jack Crowley

I listened, I watched, I tried to help out when I could, but above all else I learned.

Meeting the “In-Laws”

By Br. Todd Blackham

It’s worthwhile to step back from time to time and revisit those things that have shaped our lives in Christ.

Renewing Our Foundations: Cowley Summer 2020

By Curator

Renewing Our Foundations: Cowley Magazine – Summer 2020 We invite you to explore the Summer 2020 issue of Cowley Magazine, which takes up the topic of Renewing Our Foundations. We Brothers want to share a few of the realizations – lessons and challenges – that have come out of this past year of reflection together.…

Fall 2017 Cowley Magazine: Praying with the Fourth Gospel

The Fourth Gospel

There are many ways to read and share this Cowley magazine, which takes up the theme “Praying with the Fourth Gospel”:

Read an online version of the magazine.

Download a PDF copy of the magazine.

Click on the links below to read selected articles.

  1. In the Monastic Wisdom for Everyday Living insert, Br. Keith Nelson reveals through his own experience how reading and praying with John’s Gospel can allow each of us to see the ordinary, challenging, and even painful events of our lives as signs imbued with meaning.
  2. Professor in New Testament at Virginia Theological Serminary, John Yieh gives a close look at the Johannine vision of Christian community as an embodiment of God’s love in Christ.
  3. Br. Jim Woodrum offers practical suggestions for how we can meet Jesus in prayer thoughout our day, every day.
  4. Tambria E. Lee, Chaplain at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, introduces various ways we might pray with John’s Gospel.
  5. How could a modern dance class open the way to a monastic calling? Br. Nicholas Bartoli shares his vocational journey to SSJE.

Would you like to receive a print magazine or know someone who might like to receive a free subscription to Cowley? Let us know here.

Tell us what you think of this Cowley Magazine in the comments below.
We welcome your comments, letters, or ideas for future articles.