Hannah Spiers

consecrated sister, ccn, New York (USA)

8 juin 2024


The « turning point » that took 18 months

On 4 September 2016, I arrived at the gates of Lambeth Palace in London to join the inaugural cohort of the Community of St Anselm. I am greeted by a very tall man who introduces himself as a "consecrated brother in the Chemin Neuf Community. We have an ecumenical vocation". I tell him very politely (I hope) that I don't understand a word he's just said

Looking back 9 months.

My placement in an Episcopal church in Edinburgh took a different turn when I began to ask myself some unexpected questions. I had taken a gap year after my studies, mainly to discern what God was calling me to. I had lots of ideas, but I found myself with two main questions that wouldn’t leave me alone: prayer (« Is there more to prayer than my 20 minutes squeezed in at the start of the day? ») and community life (« The way the disciples lived in Acts, was it only for then, or is it possible today? »). Henri Nouwen’s book « The Genesee Diary 1 » only confirmed the perplexity and urgency of these questions for me and awakened in me a hunger to know more.

I started following Archbishop Justin Welby on Twitter after hearing him speak at an event in Scotland. A few weeks later, in a moment of thoughtless scrolling, I saw a post on his account about something called the Community of St Anselm. I clicked on the link, read the website and instantly something clicked into place. I don’t know how, but somehow it was the answer to my questions. Applications were open until the end of April for this full-time residential programme based at Lambeth Palace in London. Like the obedient disciple, I was quick to do nothing.

On the last day of April, towards midnight, I can’t fall asleep. Suddenly I realise that it’s the last day of the deadline. Countless ex- cuses swirl around in my head, and then a quiet little voice says to me:

« Hannah, to apply is to put your life in my hands. A moment of decision. Then a frantic tap and the submit button just before midnight.

The reactions of my friends and family to the letter of invitation I received weeks later were mixed – from joy to incomprehension, from support to hesitant smiles. The night before I left, my family and I watched the film « Sister Act » and we had a good laugh together.

That’s how my year at the Community of St Anselm began, with the discovery of the Chemin Neuf Community (the same one Justin Welby spoke about in January), and its vocation to unity. It’s been a wonderful year, full of ups and downs and rollercoasters.
I remember the week of the ecumenism course, given by a Mennonite teacher, when I found myself sitting on the stairs in tears. I was experiencing an unexpected and ineffable heartbreak over a story I had never considered before.

Another memory: Christmas at Hautecombe – seeing how these strange beige and white beings were not only joyful, but relatively normal! Reflective liturgical moments and spon- taneous prayer groups. All this is possible in the same space?

Finally, the prayer at the meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion – to see at close quarters how precious and fragile unity is, and how evangelical it is.

It was during the 30 Days retreat that my companion asked me one day: « Have you thought about joining Chemin Neuf? Thinking back on that question today, I’m grateful to her for having had the courage to ask me.
My immediate reaction was to say ‘no’: that wasn’t on the list of questions I’d come to the retreat with. But as I said it, I realised that it wasn’t true. My dance last year had shown me that something was pulling me in that direction.

In the days that followed, the times of prayer were mostly silent but full of consolation, until one day I realised that Jesus was speaking to me: « You seek to serve me, and here you will find me. You will become what you are by belonging to this body ».

At the time, I didn’t hesitate to say ‘yes’ – it was so clear. A few days later, as the practicalities were being sorted out and the dust was settling, I suddenly realised: « Oh, but thank goodness it’s ecumenical, otherwise it wouldn’t be possible! » What a gift!

This joy and certainty have never left me to this day. ■ H. S.

« At the crossing »

New York’s Episcopal Cathedral, St John the Divine, welcomed the « At the Crossing » community on 24 September. Led by the Chemin Neuf Community, « At the Crossing » offers young people between the ages of 20 and 30 the opportunity to spend a « gap year » sharing community life with members of different churches, receiving spiritual formation, being a prayerful presence in the cathedral and serving the poorest of the poor.

The first class includes 13 members from the congregations of the Episcopal Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the American Association of Lutheran Churches, the Mennonite Church, the Church of the Nazarene and the Pentecostal Church.

« What is the Community  »At the Crossing », https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gqjmu8nYksI

[1] A stranger in paradise

Cet article fait partie du numéro 078 de la revue FOI


september-october-november 2023

Oecuménisme   Vie de la Communauté  

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