Who We Are

Our Daily Life

We gather throughout the day to pray the Daily Office—Morning Prayer, Noonday Prayer, Evening Prayer and Compline. On most days we join in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Our common prayer and worship sanctify the work of the day, interrupting it so that we can direct and offer it all to God in thanksgiving. To read more about the Daily Office, click here or to listen audio clips, click here.

Every morning we also spend an hour alone before God, usually in our cells, where we come to know the rewards of “the Father who sees in secret.” In our prayer we bring to God the needs of the world, as well as our work and our joys, our gratitude and our sin, our sufferings and our dreams, our poverty and our desires, our passion and our sexuality, our fears and our resistance, our gifts and our grief. Our prayer includes all and we welcome all.

 

Our Ministries

We aim above all to be “Men of the Moment,” responsive to the call of God and the needs of our world in the present day. At our home and in our ministries, we aim to share with others gifts from the Spirit:

Silence and Sanctuary

We offer our monasteries as places of silence, sanctuary, and simple beauty, renewing them to meet changing needs. At home and wherever we minister, we accept and welcome all who come, including them in our worship, meals, and fellowship.

Guidance in Prayer and Spirituality

We offer guidance through preaching, teaching, retreats, workshops, and spiritual direction. In our guest houses in Cambridge and West Newbury we extend our hospitality to guests, who may come for an individual retreat or may attend group retreats on topics related to prayer and spirituality. We are especially available to students and others at critical stages of life formation, and to those whose vocation is the formation of others.

A Vision for Wholeness

We serve a wide spectrum of people, from the disempowered and marginalized to the influential and privileged. For several years, we have been affiliated with St. George’s College in Jerusalem, serving as chaplains on a number of pilgrimages to the Holy Land each year. Recently, we also have conducted mission trips to Africa. Individual brothers work in a variety of local and regional ministries—with students, with prisoners, and with persons affected by HIV/AIDS. We aim to be ministers of reconciliation, hope, and transformation. Our work helps people uncover their deepest desires, live with authenticity, and discover their place in the heart of God.

 

Our History

The Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE) was founded in the parish of Cowley in Oxford, England, by the Reverend Richard Meux Benson in 1866. SSJE was the first stable religious community of men to be established in the Anglican Church since the Reformation. Our order came to Boston in 1870. For many years SSJE also had houses in Scotland, India, South Africa, Japan and Canada.

Now, the Brothers of the North American Congregation live at the Monastery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, near Harvard Square, and also keep a rural retreat center, Emery House, in West Newbury, Massachusetts. The Brothers live under a Rule of Life and, at profession, make vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience.

Altar Bread

Sift together:

4 cups whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt

Mix together:

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup oil (vegetable, canola, or other light oil)
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup honey

  • Pour liquid into dry ingredients and mix till thoroughly blended; dough should be stiff and moist, but not sticky.
  • Turn out onto lightly floured board and knead briefly, using additional flour as necessary.
  • Roll out on lightly floured board about 3/8” thick.
  • Cut into rounds of appropriate size (no larger than 6 1/2” diameter).
  • Stamp firmly with floured mold or incise with cross, using sharp, thin knife dipped in cool water.
  • Place on a heavy, light-colored, oiled (or
    use vegetable spray or parchement paper) cookie sheet and bake at 375° F for 8 to 12 minutes, depending on your oven’s temperature.
  • Cool loaves on wire rack and wrap well be- fore refrigerating. May be reheated in micro- wave – ever so briefly to avoid drying – before use.

Some Advice for Bakers beyond the Monastery:

Practice! Don’t expect your first batch to be ready for prime time. You, your oven, and your kitchen all bring something to the process, so sort that out before you forge ahead to make the loaves to be used on the Altar for Easter morning when the Bishop is there and the sanctuary is full. Besides, the birds will find your ‘practice runs’ to be a special treat!

Before rolling out the dough, divide it into four portions rather than just two. Your home kitchen is probably smaller than the monastery kitchens, and you may find it easier to work with less dough on your kitchen counter.

Try to roll the dough as evenly as possible and try rolling to 1/4” rather than 3/8” – experiment with different size rounds and depths, so that you can find the combination that works for you and your oven.

Don’t incise the cross too deeply & don’t drag the knife across the dough, rather lay it on top and lightly imprint the dough with the knife.

Rather than a greasing the cookie sheet, parchment paper works well and does save the effort of cleanup. Also, ‘airbake’ cookie sheets help to keep the bottoms from getting too dark.

The goal in baking is to get a lightly golden brown top, but not toasted. You should find that once the bread has cooled and you break it apart, it is moist and slightly sweet inside.

The loaves can be frozen in tightly sealed containers (such as Ziploc freezer bags) well in advance. Allow 24 hours for them to defrost so that they are room temperature at the time of the service.

Finally, remember that these aren’t just any loaves, but rather they will be made sacred when they are consecrated at the Eucharist. As you go along, take the time to notice the smells, textures, and colors of the dough and loaves. The process of preparing them is both mundane and holy and it involves all your senses. It is a very special way of sharing in the liturgical and spiritual life of your community.

The Brothers’ Cross

The Brothers' Cross

We find a profound significance for our own lives in what the Gospel of John tells of the Beloved Disciple’s friendship with Jesus and his call to be a witness to the mystery of the Incarnation. We bear the name of Saint John the Evangelist to show the church what is the source of our inspiration and our joy. The brothers’ bronze cross bears an intricate weaving of images from the Johannine writings of the New Testament:

  • The mandorla shape of wings surrounding Christ is drawn from images in the Revelation to John and from the Book of the Prophet Malachi (4:2): “The sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.”
  • The vine and grape motif (at the base) recalls Jesus’ words about abiding in him: “I am the vine; you are the branches” (John 15:4-5).
  • Bearing the scroll at the feet of Christ is an eagle, the traditional symbol for Saint John the Evangelist, taken from the images of the four living creatures described in the Revelation to John (4:6-8).
  • The scroll bears the inscription et verbum caro factum est, “And the Word was made flesh” (John 1:14), recalling the dedication of SSJE to the mystery of the Incarnation.
  • In the arms of the cross, the letters IPEV are an acronym (in Latin) for “In the beginning was the Word,” from the Prologue to John’s Gospel.
  • The letters SSJE are imprinted in the circle around the cross.

 

Arches

Arches in Chapel

The arch figures prominent­ly into the architecture of the monastery, and it is a repeated motif at Emery House as well.  Arches are structures with deep spiritual and psychic resonance.  They embody and symbolize many things: strength and support, lightness and openness within density, a beginning and an end.  Archesare entry points into liminal space.  In mythology, arches or door­ways are understood as thresholds in time and space (chronos, the temporal world) through which one passes to enter another kind of time and space (kairos, the spiritual world).  Arches are iconic: while grounded in the present, they draw one’s gaze upwards to a higher ideal or tran­scendent reality.  In the New Testament, the archis also a fundamentally Johannine symbol.  In John’s gospel we hear Jesus saying, “I am the way,” “I am the doorway to the sheepfold.”  This may well have figured into the archi­tect Ralph Adams Cram’s extensive use of the arch throughout the monastery.

 

The arch symbolizes our identity as a community: our discipline of prayer and worship, our ministries of spiritual formation and spiritual direction; our teaching and retreat leading, our advocating for and empowering those who live in poverty.  We find the arch a strong and inspiring image, yet the arch is also a paradoxical image which is built on weakness.  Many centuries ago Leonardo da Vinci wrote that “an arch is nothing else than a strength caused by two weaknesses; for the arch in buildings is made up of two segments of a circle, and each of these segments being in itself very weak desires to fall, and as one withstands the downfall of the other, the two weaknesses are converted into a single strength.”  This redemption of weakness is a reality we brothers continually exper­ience.  We know one another very well, not just our strengths but also our weak­nesses.  We often witness God’s strength being perfected out of weakness, both in our life together as a community and as we minister to others – individuals confiding in us their own experiences of suffering, grief and loss, and their longing to know God’s real presence amidst God’s seeming absence.