It looks like there is a revival of monastic orders in Huron. On Sunday, August 20, the Novicing Mass was held at St. Andrew’s Memorial Anglican Church in Kitchener (Deanery of Waterloo). The service marked Noah McLellan's entry into the novitiate of the Anglican Order of Preachers (a.k.a. the Dominicans). In the picture are, left to right: Br. John Maine, Rev. Matt Kieswetter, Territorial Archdeacon Ven. Megan Collings-Moore, and Br. Noah McLellan.
By Rev. Matthew Kieswetter
Right in the middle of the pandemic The New York Times published a fascinating piece called "'A Moment of Intimacy': New Yorkers and the Sacred Spaces in Their Homes" (Dec. 29, 2021).
The premise of the article was that a surprising number of people express their religious devotion at home — either individually or as a family — and that this aspect of their life became even more important in a time of being stuck indoors, and as was the case for a while, unable to worship with others at a common gathering space like a church, synagogue, or temple.
The piece highlighted both an evangelical Christian and a Roman Catholic family. Our own Anglican tradition gets a nod from an Episcopalian in the comment section who noted the blessings of following the readings and prayers of the Daily Office: Morning and Evening Prayer.
I wonder: did prayer at home take on extra importance for you during the doldrums of the pandemic? If I recall correctly, the website of our national church placed "resources for home prayer" at the top of the "resources" page early on.
I also noticed, and sometimes connected to, the Facebook live streams from the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge, MA and Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, NY. These, of course, existed alongside the many recorded liturgies from our own parish churches. In my own parish we were blessed to have one of the sisters from the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine in Toronto join us for Zoom-based compline.
One of the marks of religious communities is that they gather several times throughout the day to pray. It seems to me that when our Sundays were shaken up, many people grew in their everyday faith and devotions (which probably was — and is — one of our 'growing edges,' to put it gently.)
Did the anxiety of the early days of the pandemic lead you to deeper prayer and self-reflection? Did the slightly less hectic pace of life that we experienced for a while lead to more time set aside for prayer? Is marking a specific part of the home as 'sacred' helpful in supporting daily prayer practices? Or is it easiest for you to turn to a prayer book, Bible, or prayer app on your phone or tablet while on the couch or kitchen table?
For me, discovering and coming to understand the morning and evening liturgies of the Book of Common Prayer and Book of Alternative Services was an important step in my spiritual growth in my early 20s. Both a friend of mine and my parish priest helped me to become familiar with the services and the lectionary (the schedule of readings), and most of us probably will need a little bit of direction early on, especially with the lectionary calendar and with the abundance of choices within the BAS services. Don't let that discourage you!
In those days I created a prayer space in my bedroom, with a crucifix, a dresser at a convenient height for kneeling (because I was shocked at the price of kneelers!), and candlesticks I had picked up from Liquidation World. My zealousness somehow hid their ugliness from me!
Over time I moved past that 'romantic' stage and prayed more unremarkably (though I probably lost some of my fidelity to regular and deep prayer and contemplation). In more recent years I've found more of a middle way, where I recognize the value of a special space for prayer, with images and resources (crucifix or cross, icons, prayer beads, prayer books, Bibles) close at hand and arranged tidily (the principle being 'peaceful space, peaceful mind').
Do take some time to consider your daily prayer practice, and whether or not a particular space would be helpful. If you are intrigued by this idea, but not sure what to do next, speak to some clergy or friends from church, to find out what works for them. The liturgies of our official prayer and service books are great resources, and there are several other resources out there to be discovered, too. And if you find that some guidance or unpacking of those resources is needed, there is certainly help close at hand in your parish and diocese.
If the books aren't the best fit for you right now, know that there are several easy-to-use apps and websites close at hand. I'll explore some of these in greater depth in a future column.
Rev. Matthew Kieswetter is the rector of St. Andrew's Memorial, Kitchener, and an Associate of the Order of the Holy Cross.