“Where there is Sadness, (let me sow) Joy”, is exactly a prayer that we all need in this incredibly divisive and polarised world. Famously, this line comes from a larger prayer by St Francis of Assisi, and it is his example that is inspiring a group of young adults in west London to live joyfully in the urban context.
Based at St Saviour’s Wendell Park, the Young Franciscans (YF) community met together recently on the Feast of St Francis at the shared Franciscan house next to the vicarage of St Saviour’s Church. The community is made up of two branches: a growing group of young adults who gather monthly in a similar format to other local TSSF (Third Order of the Society of St Francis) groups and a new core group of three adults who are living together in the Franciscan house for a year. Together they learnt more about the life of St Francis of Assisi helping them to strengthen their community and develop a deeper rhythm of prayer, work, study and mission.
These young adults, led by the Revd Chris Lee, Priest-in-charge of St Saviour’s, joined the YF because of a hunger and thirst for more depth and prayer, for more structure and grounding in life and for a deeper spirituality. Like many people in the modern world all have expressed a deeper pursuit of truth and for holiness while trying to find out more about God.
When the Revd Chris started the journey of becoming a Tertiary Franciscan a few years ago, he felt a strong calling to help younger Christians encounter Franciscan spirituality. One year in, the group have been meeting to pray and serve the local community through their vision “To know and make known Jesus Christ after the example of St Francis by living simply, sacrificially and joyfully for the love of God, the church and all of creation.”
The new core community members who have recently moved into the shared house live this way of life alongside their normal jobs and are expected to contribute towards the rent of the house and needs of the wider dispersed community. They have developed a rule of life with the support of the Revd Chris, who lives next door at the Vicarage with three other members of the wider YF community. On a daily basis, prayer is held in a chapel that has been created within the house and weekly group meetings take place as well as larger monthly gatherings. There are three retreats and a pilgrimage to Assisi, and throughout the year, opportunities are sought for members to have a church a placement on Sundays with a local vicar to develop their ministerial experience.
Commenting on the YF community, participant Philippa Guy said:
“Being a Young Franciscan has helped me to explore a different type of Christian spirituality and encounter Jesus in new way. It’s provided a depth and grounding to my faith as we’ve developed our rules of life, and I’ve grown in my understanding of prayer, communion and community. Last year I went through a lot of change through moving home and starting a new job, and having this community helped me to find a stability and peace in God.”
While there is a growing movement of New Monastic Communities across the Capital, in various forms, the YF community at St Saviour’s Wendell Park have the support and guidance from the First and Third Orders of the Society of St Francis, who help them develop their rules of life. They are also receiving weekly teaching from the wider Franciscan and Christian community in London on topics such as the lives of St Francis and Clare of Assisi, Scripture and Contemporary Culture, and Sacramental Worship in the Church.
To find out more see the Young Franciscans website.