[Episcopal News Service] Members of the first cohort of Community at the Crossing, a new yearlong ecumenical intentional community, have settled in at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York.
To celebrate the cohort’s arrival, the cathedral hosted a special morning prayer service on Sept. 24, which included a sermon by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. During the service, the cohort was vested in robes signifying their membership in the community. The new members were also formally received into the larger cathedral community.
“What are you doing here? It’s a question for you, the first cohort of the Community at the Crossing. It’s a question that you’ll be asking yourselves having come from all over the country, from different denominations, from different backgrounds and perspectives, and now here, living in New York,” said Welby addressing his sermon to community members. “You will ask yourselves, ‘What am I doing here?’ Perhaps, at some point, you will ask yourself that when you’re feeling a bit homesick, wondering if you’ve made the right choice, finding community life difficult, and community life can be difficult.”
The Community at the Crossing serves young adults ages 22 – 30 from across the United States. It provides them a place to live, work, study, eat and pray together. The cathedral is underwriting the program at a cost of $40,000 per participant. The first cohort includes 13 members belonging to The Episcopal Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the American Association of Lutheran Churches, the Mennonite Church, the Church of the Nazarene and Pentecostal congregations. Some will reside in New York and commute every day while others will live on the floor of a building on St. John the Divine’s close.
“This community is based on the fact that people are coming together for a year to experience their lives and pray together,” the Very Rev. Patrick Malloy, dean of St. John the Divine and chaplain to the program, told Episcopal News Service. “By doing that in our cathedral in a very public way, they will be witnesses for the church. Also, it’ll be possible for people to share in their desire to experience God’s reality and God’s life in themselves.”
Malloy lamented what he described as “a great division in the Christian church right now that’s probably worse than it’s ever been.”
“The Cathedral of St. John the Divine was founded to be a center of Christian unity … in part to foster church unity and Christian unity. What we’re doing now is we’re living into our founding vision and becoming an ecumenical center in a way maybe that we haven’t ever been before,” he said.
Last year, in a display of unity, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Welby, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church, endorsed the program.
Welby, in a statement to ENS, said: “In the book of the Acts of the Apostles, the birth of the church, the followers of Christ committed themselves to prayer, breaking of bread and the Apostles teachings. Throughout the centuries, groups of men and women have committed themselves to live in religious communities to pursue these same principles.”
Malloy was inspired, he said, to start an intentional lay community after he observed the international Community of St. Anselm at Lambeth Palace in London, England, which was founded in 2015 by Welby under his belief that “the religious life is a part of the revitalization of our Anglican communion.” The Roman Catholic Chemin Neuf Community, an international community with an ecumenical vocation, was also an inspiration, he said.
Members of both the St. Anselm and the Chemin Neuf communities helped design the Community at the Crossing’s curriculum, which includes Bible studies, guest speakers, local community service, a silent retreat and more. Later this fall, Community at the Crossing members will engage in public dialogue and programs exploring Christian life from different perspectives. They will also lead outreach to churches and institutions throughout New York.
Malloy said he’s most looking forward to witnessing how the community’s presence will change the cathedral.
“I think this is the real spirit among them, of openness and possibility and wonder,” he said.
“The church has always been the place where renewal begins. Without communities of prayer…one doesn’t see any renewal,” Welby said in the statement. “The Community at the Crossing is a sign of God’s work of renewal in the world, in your city and in the church.”
-Shireen Korkzan is a reporter and assistant editor for Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.