Monday 11th September 2017, 11.56pm.
I have just got home after our first evening together as non-residents with the resident Community of St Anselm based at Lambeth Palace. NunLife has started. I won’t blog about every time we meet, but I thought I’d write about the first evening and some initial thoughts. I hope this explains a bit about what I’m doing, and I’m very happy to chat more about it through the year!
Since telling people I was becoming a part-time nun for a year it’s been great chatting about it and them sharing in my excitement, but to be honest when they asked what I would be doing on a Monday evening I wasn’t too sure what to say as I didn’t really know myself. I mean, I had a rough idea of some of the things it would include but not in what capacity or format over the year. So when I made it to London early in the day I was filled with excitement, but as the evening came and I stood on Lambeth Bridge then those first-day-at-secondary-school nerves came flooding back; ‘what if no-one likes me/talks to me/sits next to me?’. It was time to go through the keyhole (well, small wooden door) and collect my pass for the year. I was one of the first non-residents to arrive and was taken up to our meeting room with another girl, where we met a couple who had got there just before us. The residents also soon started to join us, the introductions began and it turned out earlier worries were unnecessary. We had an amazing Pakistani curry for dinner (cooked by one of the residents), and the residents and non-residents matched up in pairs and after pudding we introduced each other to everyone else. It was great to hear about so many countries (and English counties) represented in one room. One of the things I’m looking forward to learning more about this year is hearing other people’s experiences of being a Christian in other countries. The room was filled with laughter as we shared random facts about each other and it felt so welcoming even within an hour of meeting. This is what community is about, and this is what I’m excited for.
We then had time just as non-residents to hear about the programme. I am pretty organised and like to know what is going – I’m a details person and colour coded spreadsheets are my friends. I felt pleased with myself that I was coping with not knowing very much detail about the year and then we were given colour coded timetables and I was in my happy place. Order was restored and all was well. There is a lot packed in, and a huge range of things we will be studying and experiencing, which is another thing I’m looking forward to. It includes:
— hearing speakers and teachers on different topics (some Monday evenings and all Saturdays)
— being in a small ‘sharing group’ where we can discuss what we are learning (some Monday evenings)
— worshiping together reflecting each of our traditions and styles (some Monday evenings)
— getting involved serving in a charity or project in our local community (in our own time in the week)
— three week-long retreats (one a term)
— daily Bible reading plan (all year)
We were told about our daily Bible reading which is something that unites us even when we aren’t physically together. We are starting with Luke’s Gospel and watched a brilliant two part introduction to it from the Bible Project (they have made lots of these youtube videos) to get us thinking about it as we read the Gospel together over the next two weeks. One of the themes that stood out for me was how Jesus loved the vulnerable, and I’m keen to look at this more.
We then headed down to the Crypt (the oldest part of Lambeth Palace, underneath the Chapel) where we were fitted with our much anticipated white robes – ‘albs’ to be technically correct (though I still don’t really know what that means). Although we won’t actually wear these for a couple of weeks until our commissioning service, it was good to try it on and have a little practice walking in it; it was also another physical reminder that even though we are all different we come together united as a group. The last thing for the evening was sharing in evening prayer which is part of the Anglican tradition and rhythm of prayer. This, along with morning prayer and Eucharist (communion) at lunchtime, is a daily prayer time everyone who works and lives in Lambeth Palace is invited to join in with. I’m not used to using much liturgy and having lots of structured written text to follow and participate in during services. Having said that, I found it very moving and there is space between the given script (for want of a better word) for you to think about your own personal prayers. As we began, I thought about the whole day and the journey I’ve been on the last few years thinking about and applying to join, and here I finally was; I felt quite emotional. It is quite humbling being in a simple candlelit room holding hundreds of years of history and a group of young people praying prayers where generations have prayed before us. It was a welcome place of peace and reflection, much appreciated space in our busy lives. Again, this moment was another symbol of unity; there is something powerful about saying the prayer with others, especially when everyone says the Lord’s Prayer in their own language. I did find myself having to follow along carefully to keep up with what was being said, and sometimes felt like I was trying to concentrate on saying the right thing so much that I wasn’t actually able to process it quick enough, but I think I will get used to it. It’s good to be challenged out of our comfort zone, and this is doing that for me.
All of a sudden it was time to leave and head home. Our first evening together was over. A nineteen minute walk from Palace to station, and I only had to check Google maps once. I feel like it’s going to be a good year.
Do also read my original post attempting to answer some more general questions people asked me about becoming a part-time nun!