The Community of the Gospel, a non-residential religious community with standing in The Episcopal Church, held its annual gathering from October 1-4, 2020. Originally scheduled to take place at the Transfiguration Spirituality Center, Glendale, OH, the event was offered virtually as e-Vocation 2020. This name pointed to the digital nature of the meeting. It emphasized monastic vocation.
During study sessions, participants focused on the field of non-violent communication as developed by Marshall Rosenberg during the Civil Rights era. Requiring presence and empathy, non-violent communication was portrayed by study leaders as a stark contrast to the loudness and incivility of public discourse at this juncture in American public life. In break-out rooms, some monastics shared stories of life-long scars as the result of violent communications in home and family settings. Non-violent communication was held up as a spiritual practice in the monastic tool box.
The fourth Bishop Visitor of the Community of the Gospel, the Rt. Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, met with members for a wide-ranging dialogue. She noted that as a young adult she found deep meaning in an intentional community devoted to prayer, study, and service. Marked by disciplined spiritual practice, that community reminds her of current non-residential religious communities comprised of individuals who hold day jobs “in the world” while seeking to live under monastic vows and a common rule of life.
The four-day event concluded with renewal of baptismal vows and monastic promises. The officiant was the Community of the Gospel’s Chaplain, the Rev. Tyrone Fowlkes, rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Raleigh, NC. Fr. Fowlkes reprised the theme of non-violent communications: “In this world and at this time there is a strong need for us to find ways to build bridges and to create connections among people–especially those with whom we disagree–and more importantly those we don’t particularly like.” Fr. Fowlkes commended monastics to live by Shakespeare’s frequently cited advice to love all, trust a few, and do wrong to none.
In adjourning e-Vocation 2020, Br. Daniel-Chad Hoffman, CG Guardian, echoed the Passover and Yom Kippur song “Next year in Jerusalem.” He stated that “we live out our vows in a time of disruption, isolation, anxiety and loss. Like our ancient Hebrew ancestors, we yearn to return to Jerusalem. We, too, look forward to meeting next year in person at the Transfiguration Spirituality Center, as we have done for many years.” Then, Hoffman added, if we can’t do that, we have learned this year how to meet and how to stay deeply connected with available technologies.
The Community of the Gospel was founded in 2007. It is one of about eighteen non-residential religious communities recognized by The Episcopal Church. It is a member of the National Association of Episcopal Christian Communities (NAECC). The organization claims fifty members and Friends of the Community across the United States and in the Bahamas.