Part Two: The ‘Way of Life’ of the Nazareth Community at St. Martin-in-the-Fields –
A Contemporary Path of Discipleship
By Emma Bresslaw

In September 2022, Emma Bresslaw was welcomed into the Nazareth Community of St Martin-in-the-Fields, a community of people from different churches, places, backgrounds, and traditions, who share a desire to live gospel lives in accordance with a contemporary “Rule” or “Way” of Life. In this second of three short articles, she describes how silence is creating space for her to be receptive to the love of God.

I live in Hertfordshire and on a good day it takes me just under an hour to get to St. Martin-in-the-Fields. On Wednesdays, my morning is spent with a careful eye on the clock. Household tasks and phone calls are dealt with promptly, two Labradors are given a brisk walk. I sprint the mile to the station, leap on the train, scramble through the underground tunnels at a pace, rush up the steps at Leicester Square, jostle my way through a busy pavement and then arrive at the church, slightly out of breath, hopefully before the clock strikes five. I sit down in a pew with an enormous sigh of relief. I have rushed all day for this – for nothing. An hour of sitting in silence with a few other people. Is this nothing? No, this is everything. This is making space. This is letting go. This is “being with”. This is prayer and God has called me here to be with God, with myself and with others who are doing the same thing, who have also been called by God to be here with me, with others, and with God. It is an hour of silence. Silence within one’s soul is a sacred gift that no one can take away. There may be noises of street life, and there are usually plenty in Trafalgar Square: sirens, traffic noise, music, to name but a few, but these do not distract from the inner silence that I can maintain. In fact, they remind me that my prayer life is part of the whole fabric of my twenty-first century existence, not an adjunct to it that happens in a side-room, but the very heartbeat of my existence. The distractions also remind me that prayer is not a cosy relationship between me and God, but it is about my life of discipleship in the real world and how my relationship with God, my faith, will sustain, nurture and guide me in that world.

I centre myself by emptying my consciousness of niggling, intrusive concerns and, to paraphrase the words of the poet, Edwina Gateley, I say nothing and ask for nothing but just let my God look upon me and love me[1]. I have been practising contemplative prayer at home on my own for a few years but praying silently in community with others is quite different. It is a profound and transformative experience. Surely the Holy Spirit is with us, filling this shared, intentional space to which we have each contributed and which we tenderly hold together within our safe and sacred place. The silence unites us as we unite our silences. There is a palpable presence.  I have been listening, we have all been straining our ears and our hearts to hear the word of God and we may, with God’s great grace, catch a priceless whisper. Our mutual, silent listening has become a new phenomenon and into this the Spirit breathes the love of God which we all inhale. I may shed the odd tear in this silent hour but, as the clock strikes six, I resurface comforted and empowered by a deep, indescribable, and inexplicable sense of peace. I have experienced “being with”. I am becoming and have a heightened sense of belonging and of being beloved.

Read the final article in this series here.

Find out more about the London Diocese Way of Life resources for churches.

[1] “Let Your God Love You”: Edwina Gateley
[i] A saying credited to Martin Luther