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/ 5 April 2023

The Roots of Community

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

In this first of three short articles, Emma Bresslaw describes her experience of participating in a contemporary path of Discipleship – the ‘Way of Life’ of the Nazareth Community based at St Martin-in-the-Fields in central London.

In September 2022, I was welcomed into the Nazareth Community of St Martin-in-the-Fields, a community which came into being in 2018, the inspiration of Richard Carter, the Associate Vicar for Mission there. The community brings together people from many different churches, places, backgrounds and traditions, who share a desire to endeavour to live gospel lives in accordance with a contemporary “Rule” or “Way” of Life[1] – details of which are beautifully explained and explored through the media of prose, poetry and prayer in Fr. Richard’s book, “The City is my Monastery”[2]. These articles are not an attempt to summarise the Way of Life adopted by the Nazareth Community but suffice it to say that its members commit to incorporating seven S’s into their lives of discipleship: Silence, Service, Sacrament, Scripture, Sharing, Sabbath and Staying with.

Though the community is dispersed and does not share geographical proximity, it is founded on shared values and beliefs. Like the Benedictine and other Christian monastic rules of life, it is not a prescriptive, legalistic code of “must dos” and “oughts”, rather it is a gentle guide to “being with”: being with God, with ourselves, with each other and with the whole of creation. This “being with” takes place within the context of our individual lives and provides a framework around which our existing activities and responsibilities can be arranged.  Its distinctiveness is its focus on silent contemplation. Peace and stillness, within the hustle and bustle of London might seem an impossible paradox, an oxymoron, but they are the breath of life and the space that we so desperately need to create in the busy heart of our capital city.

On induction to the Nazareth Community, rather like the disciples of John the Baptist who leave him to follow Jesus[3],  all new members are asked, “What do you seek?” The response is, “to live the gospel with the Spirit of simplicity, compassion, forgiveness and joy…. (With the grace of) …the mercy of God and the community of my sisters and brothers.”[4] Living this gospel life is at the core of the Way of Life that I have vowed to commit to. The seven S’s explained and explored in “The City is my Monastery”[5] and reinforced at the weekly informal Eucharist “Bread for the World”[6], are my guide to fulfilling this commitment and the fellowship of the community is a priceless encouragement and support. Our Christian lives are not intended to be lived in isolation but in harmony with our sisters and brothers who together constitute the living body of Christ, the church,  that shares its joys and sorrows, its hopes and its despair. My companions fuel my somewhat defiant resistance to the individualistic and materialistic world around me and strengthen my resolve to persevere in this somewhat counter-cultural Way.

In the two short articles that follow, I want to try to convey how joining this community and committing to this remarkable Way of Life is helping me on my path of discipleship, how it is creating more space for me to be receptive to God and how it is continuing to transform my life as a follower of Christ. In so doing, I seek also to encourage and invite you to consider the benefits of following such a Way and joining such a community as you too continue to explore, deepen and rejoice in your own personal journey of faith.

Read the next article of this series here.

About Emma
Emma Bresslaw, like all other Christians does not claim to be in a state of completion but is still very much in the process of becoming[i]. She has considerable experience of ministry team involvement as a lay leader of worship in her former parish and now regularly worships at St Paul’s Cathedral as well as St. Martin-in-the-Fields. She remains very open to exploring prayer and spirituality in different styles and traditions, strongly believing that the Holy Spirit encourages us to discover different insights into our relationship with God that can be revealed by a limitless variety of places and approaches. She is proud to be a new member of the Nazareth Community and continues to discern her ministry within the church of God.

[1] A “rule” of life can carry connotations of severity and prescription but as the Benedictine author Esther de Waal points out, the word stems from the Latin word for a rule, regula, a female noun which is therefore implicitly gentle not harsh, a guide not a law. The term “way” sits comfortably with the earliest name for the followers of Jesus, who is after all, our way, our truth and our life. – John 14:6

[2] Richard Carter, The City is my Monastery – a contemporary rule of life”, Canterbury Press, 2019. I urge you to buy it and live it’s message.

[3] John 1:37-38

[4] Richard Carter, The City is my Monastery, p.265

[5] Richard Carter, The City is my Monastery – a contemporary rule of life”, Canterbury Press, 2019

[6] “Bread for the World” is a very friendly and relaxed service of Holy Communion which warmly welcomes everyone to St. Martin’s in Trafalgar Square at 6.30 p.m. every Wednesday. It is also live streamed. It lasts approximately one hour. Come, taste, and see.

[i] A saying credited to Martin Luther

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

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