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Saturday, August 08, 2009

The Clothing of a Novice

Note: This afternoon at 2 PM, I journeyed to the Southern part of NJ (which folk there say is really part of Pennsylvania and not Jersey and people from the North do little to dissuade them from that notion) to attend the novice clothing of Bill Shatzabel, a member of The Episcopal Church of St. Paul's, in the Anamchara Fellowship.

My beloved, Ms. Conroy, delivered the homily for this wonderful occasion and, I must say, she did a very fine job. Well, see for yourself. Her homily is posted below. Ms. Conroy has been a professed member of that fellowship since 2006 when she transferred her membership from the Order of Jonathan Daniels. She tells me that there are now 21 members in the AF.

I know you are dying to know just what the Anamchara Fellowship is all about, so here's what it says on their website:

The Anamchara Fellowship one of the new expressions of modern monasticism. Founded in the tradition of the Episcopal Church, with a Celtic spirit. Anamchara fellowship has received canonical recognition by the House of Bishops' Committee on the Religious Life. We strive to be an inclusive community, welcoming men and women, clergy and lay, married, single, or partners in a committed relationship. Members of the fellowship may live in their own homes or in groups as the ability for that arises. Each member must be self-supporting, and we are bound to each other by common ideals and a commitment to prayer and service. Our primary ministries focus on catechesis, pastoral care and spiritual direction.

For more information, please visit


The Novice Clothing of Brother William Morgan, nAF
The Episcopal Church of St. John the Evangelist
Chew’s Landing, NJ
August 8, 2009
Sr. Barbara Clare, AF

Back up in the “North Country” known as the Diocese of Newark, The Episcopal Church of St. Paul has a tradition started by our rector and pastor of writing a love letter to every person who is baptized there.

It is a well-loved tradition and the letter is given to the family to save and then share with the child at a later date – perhaps at Confirmation – so that the story marking the beginning of their Christian journey can be better understood as they prepare to reaffirm the promises made for them as infants or children.

So, today I have borrowed that tradition and have written a love letter for Bill to mark a very important step that he is making in his Christian journey. You are all invited to listen in.

Brother Bill,

Did you ever think today would arrive? Did you ever dream that you would be asking to be received as a member of a Christian community? Specifically, Anamchara Fellowship?

Ah, it is truly God’s sense of humor and your persistence that has made today a reality.

Your journey so far has had many twists and turns, many highs and several lows – from your childhood in the Bronx, your Catholic school early education, your service in the Army, failed relationships, your successful career at AT&T, your coming out as a gay man, your side-step into despair and your strength and determination to become the person who you are created to be, loved and whole.

Today marks an important sidebar in your journey. You are choosing to further discern your vocation as a member in Anamchara Fellowship. Today you will make promises to God and witnessed by us all in which you will strive to live a life of simplicity, to honor fidelity and to cherish obedience.

Simplicity – is already in your portfolio (except maybe that motorcycle!). You only have what you need, and of course, that includes hundreds of books. You do live simply and you have gifts that we all can learn from.

You freely share what you have and are quick to help anyone who is in need. This is marked by your work at the Red Cross, your powerful ministry with people with Alzheimer’s and your humility at being the only male on the Altar Guild!

Fidelity – You are one of the most loyal folk I know. I have never found you deceitful or ever questioned your truthfulness. I know you to be faithful to seek the truth and you search for the answers to the deep questions – researching, reading, questioning, challenging – all in an effort to better understand what you believe.

Obedience – Ah, a little work needs to be done! Taking time to quiet the mind, so that God’s spirit can speak to you and you will listen and hear what She has to say. I know you are working on it, and it is a struggle, but the peace that will be yours when you strive for that quiet space will be well worth it.

We as a community have embraced you as a Brother. We support and pray for you and will continue to offer help and guidance in the next part of your journey. I know you will be a blessing to us, as I hope we will be to you.

So, get ready – seatbelt on (or helmet if you are on the bike) – prepare for the ride.

It’s going to be a blast!

P.S. The back of the Service Bulletin for Bill's clothing contained this information about Pelagius - from whence cometh Bill's religious name "Morgan".

Pelagius (ca. 360 - 420 c.e.) was a Welshman or at least a Celt from the British Isles. His name Pelagius is a Graeco-Roman form of his surname, Morgan, meaning "Son of the Sea." His friends called him "Brito".

After leaving a confession of things to be left behind on the altar, and forgiving all who come between him and Christ's call, Bill made the following vow:

"I give myself without reservation to God, the Three of limitless love. I seek to know Christ better and make him better known, to live simply that others may simply live, to overcome evil with good and to follow the examples of Columba, Brigid, Cuthbert, Hilda and all of the Celtic Saints.

I commit myself to simplicity, fidelity and obedience, honoring those to whom I am responsible.

I undertake, as God permits, to follow a daily rhythm of prayer, work and re-creation, to meet with my spiritual director regularly and to attend the Annual Gathering of Anamchara Fellowship.

I will pray for and meet with my Anamchara during this time of formation, and will use the Fellowship's patterns of prayer each day.

The Abbess then said,

May the Father's heart be yours;
May the Christ-like qualities of Columba, Brigid, Cuthbert, and Hilda be yours.
May the signs and wonders of the Spirit be yours.

In stillness or in storm, be always vigilant, waiting, sharing, praising, and blessing. Sail forth across the ocean of God's world, knowing both the frailty of your craft and the infinite riches of your God.

Ah, 'twas a lovely thing, indeed.

Congratulations, Bill. We're all very proud of ya, laddy!


Kirkepiscatoid said...

...and doesn't Bill look...well...uh, radiant in his "Monk-y duds!"

Elizabeth Kaeton said...


Bill said...

It was a great day, physically exhausting and emotionally draining. Thank you for being there for me today as I continue this spiritual journey. It's always been easier for me to help others rather than admit to my own needs for something as simple as a friendly face and a warm smile coming from my friends.
My shrink has often told me that I need to learn how to accept things from my friends. She told me that if I'm the one who is always giving, then sooner if not later, there will be no more Bill to give. Learning how to accept from others is one way the batteries are recharged. Between all the emotional support today and a few hours cat-nap, I think I'm ready to go a few more rounds.

Fran said...

Oh this is brilliant! What words from the lovely Ms. Conroy and blessings for Bill!

susankay said...

Blessings Be.

Bill -- I suspect that often the greatest gift that I can give is to ask that I receive gifts from others.

Like you, I often find that far more difficult than the other way around.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Bill, it was a privilege and a joy to be with you today. Now, you can be there for Jon tomorrow morning. He'll need your support.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Fran, I only wish you could have been there to see it. It was really lovely.

motheramelia said...

What a wonderful story and homily. I wish Bill well and thank you for this.

VK McCarty said...

Thank you for this wonderful posting, and for Barbara's homily & charge -- what an inspiring service and a great looking family in the snapshot! Much love to you all, VK.

Brother David said...

God's richest blessings to Bro. Bill from your friend Dah•veed, who lives the professed life of a solitary, in Mexico. Today is the 11th anniversary of my profession.

On 9 AUG 1998 (which was also a Sunday) I professed vows;

(English Translation)

Purity of Heart
Evidenced by the transformation of life through active love for others and the recognition of God's indwelling Spirit in all creation.

Simplicity of Life
Evidenced by a life based on meeting simple needs rather than desires; a life of service to others and a reverence for the earth through the wise use of the earth's resources.

Evidenced by a life committed to following the teachings of Christ; following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Evidenced by a life of the renunciation of violence, force and war; of working to resolve human conflicts with love and understanding; standing in solidarity with everyone who struggles against oppression and working for the protection of the earth.

Universal Citizenship
Evidenced by a life of participation in the world-wide community of all people; respect for the beliefs and culture of all people and struggling for the equality of all people.

Doorman-Priest said...

Sounds my sort of place.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I encourage you all to check out AF. I think they are filling a real need that "traditional" monastic communities are just not filling. Dahveed's note is testimony to that.

Not that "traditional" monasticism is wrong or bad; it most certainly fills another need. But communities like AF (and there are others) are doing a new thing for Jesus with modern pragmatics and realities in mind.

Mind you, it's not for me, but it certainly is a more vibrant community of prayer than many churches. Just my nickel's worth of unsolicited advice, so it's probably worth about that much.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Congratulations on your anniversary, my brother Dahveed! May you continue to be richly blessed that you may continue to be a blessing to us all.

IT said...

So what IS it, really? It's not typically monastic, as everyone seems to have a "real" life. They have habits but obviously don't wear them all the time.

Very confused (remember I grew up Catholic, my idea of religious orders is the nuns wielding the rulers in my schooldays.)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

IT - these are folk who are in an intentional community of prayer who don't live together, but stay in close touch in between their monthly meetings. Some live too far away for more than the annual visit, but they pray for and with each other daily. They take vows (see web site and Ms. Conroy's homily) and help to keep each other accountable to them.

It satisfies a particular spiritual hunger they have. I don't have that hunger so I don't understand it completely. I suspect that no one except those who are called to that vocation really understand it and even then, there really are no words to adequately explain it.

That's probably not very helpful, but that's my best shot.

Bill said...

IT said... He was confused. Confusion is good in this case. Confusion shows interest. I've pulled some info from the Anamchara Web site:

The Purpose: The members of The Anamchara Fellowship commit to pursue a consecrated life, lived either together in community or singly, yet bound by a common ideal. The Anamchara Fellowship will seek to teach the Faith of Christ by whatever means are at its disposal, and to promote the ministries of teaching, spiritual direction and pastoral care.
The Dedication: We are dedicated to the Holy Trinity, who exemplifies the Anamchara relationship. "Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One, Have mercy upon us."
The Spirit: The Anamchara Fellowship will be lived in the spirit of Celtic Christianity, by a focus on the Crucified and Risen Christ which leads to inclusivity (seeking to build bridges), generosity, gentleness toward all that God has created, with a sense of being in harmony with all of God’s creation and to have a heart for pilgrimage.

I can't speak for the others but as for myself, I needed something more in the way of Spirituality. I needed more than 45 minutes on Sunday morning. The concept of a traditional monastic life held no appeal. In the first place, they are too rigid in their ways; too exclusive, and at odds with normal human relationships. Anamchara is only one of many new monastic expressions. Our particular fellowship follows many of the ancient Celtic traditions. In a period when the Roman armies left Britain and moved back to Rome to defend against the invading hordes, the Christians left behind were influenced by the strong pagan Druid traditions of the area. Some of those traditions included male and female monastics living in the same monastic facilities. This was unheard of in the East because of the strong prohibitions against anything involving sexuality. Much of this came out of the directions taken by the Eastern (Roman) church following some of the misguided teachings of the early church fathers (ie Augustine). The Celtic Christians didn't have these inhibitions. They followed the lead of men like Pelagius who among other things advocated the non-literal understanding of Genesis. Pelagius believed that men were born good, not evil. Since they didn't believe in the literal Genesis, there was no original sin. This was anathema to people like Augustine. If there was no Original sin, then Baptism wasn't required for salvation. It's a house of cards precariously perched atop Genesis.

Another thing which appealed to me was inclusivity. Anamchara practices the inclusivity taught by Christ and not the Exclusivity of the Catholic Church preached for the last two millenia. There is far too much to talk about in the space of a few paragraphs but I think you should have an idea by now that the issues go much deeper than just wanting to wear a habit and pray together. It's about community, fidelity, prayer, ministry and working for a better world. A world more closely aligned with the teachings of Christ before the 2nd and 3rd century church began to distort His message.