There are 12 religious congregations recognised by ACARLA – of whom 9 sent either their leader or a representative. ACARLA is chaired by a bishop (Garry Weatherill) appointed by the Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, and includes another bishop (Sarah Macneil), and two others, usually one lay (Chris Roper) and one clerical (Marilyn Hope).
The leaders/representatives themselves met for the first day – a time of study and reflection, this year based round presentations by two young Australians, Rachael and the Rev’d Jonathan Lopez. They were part of last year’s batch of the Community of St Anselm (http://stanselm.org.uk ). This community, in the broad stream of “new monasticism,” was established by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, to provide an experience for young Christians of intentional disciplined community living, undergirded by prayer and service. It operates in year-long batches and is now in its second year. 16 members reside in the Archbishop’s London residence of Lambeth Palace – and a larger number reside elsewhere in London. The community itself is guided partly by members of the Chemin Neuf Community who are also resident at Lambeth Palace. Chemin Neuf describes itself as “a Catholic Community with an ecumenical vocation.” (http://www.chemin-neuf.org.uk ).
We were inspired and energised not only by their youthful energy, but also by the way they talked of how they drew on the wisdom and experience of “traditional” communities. One practical outcome is that ACARLA is planning on holding a meeting to bring together those living in “new expressions” of community life and those in the “old expressions”.
After this inspiring beginning, the more regular business of ACARLA unfolded. This included:
- Copies of Anglican Religious Life 2016-2017 were sent last year to a targeted range of bishops, ministry educators, tertiary chaplains, etc.
- We’re planning to offer seminars / lectures on religious life to continuing education programmes throughout the Anglican Church of Australia. We’re also planning a presence at the General Synod in September this year.
- The ACARLA website www.anglicanconsecratedlife.org is live! It’s a very simple website giving information on religious life and contact points to individual congregations.
- ACARLA has a set of guidelines for recognising a “traditional” style of religious congregation – but we are now looking at parallel guidelines for providing some acknowledgement of other “newer” forms of community life.
- ACARLA also has a register of Consecrated Single Persons and provides guidelines to bishops and those seeking to make vows to this state.
- A taskforce for work on guidelines for formation didn’t meet – but we discovered that Catholic Religious Australia which had a similar taskforce has done a much better job than we could have done and and has produced an excellent document called, “Nurturing Right Relationships.”
- In the tradition of Anglican religious congregations each usually has a bishop in a role such as visitor or protector. Sometimes it’s the diocesan, sometimes not. We had a useful discussion on our varying practices.
- ACARLA greatly values its ecumenical relationships. These are with Catholics, through Sr Jill Harding FCS who represents the national body, Catholic Religious Australia, and also with the Baptist Community of the Transfiguration.
Next year’s meeting will be in Melbourne, February 6 (Leaders’ Meeting), and Feb 7 – 8 (ACARLA).