The following was written by Gail Gardner, our ADNE Diocesan Treasurer, who attended the first retreat of the Followers of the Way at St. Scholastica Priory in Petersham, MA:
Our quiet retreat began on Thursday Evening, August 23rd, with evening prayer. We stayed at the guest house of St. Scholastica Priory in Petersham MA. We were twelve in total.
Our two leaders were our Abbot, the Rev. Len Cowan, and his assistant Abbot, the Rev. Brian Barry. I was there as a fellow follower and newly elected secretary/treasurer of the Society. After supper we gathered for a meeting of the fellowship. Our first address was at 8pm, and compline followed. Father Cowan wrote in our materials a good summary of the experience: “We live in a very noisy world, surrounded by electronic beeps and hums and all kinds of auditory stimuli. At times, those noises keep us distracted enough to ignore pain, or tension, or imbalance in our life. Coming away to a noise-free environment gives us room to hear better, both our own thoughts and feelings, and the voice of God.” After Compline, a rule of silence was placed into effect until after breakfast on Friday.
We gathered in the common room and on late Friday morning we celebrated Holy Eucharist and received two new members into the Order of the Followers of the Way. We then headed for lunch with the Brothers and Sisters of the Priory, the men going with the brothers and the women with the sisters. At St. Scholastica’s, lunch is eaten in silence, with a brother or sister reading during the meal. Sister Mary Francis welcomed our women with a huge smile on her face. It was the feast day honoring St. Bartholomew.
The sisters of St. Scholastica own a sheep dog, which was kenneled to protect us from its enthusiasm. We also had Fr. Brian Barry’s one-year old son, who was just as enthusiastic and was welcomed with many warm and loving smiles. Our silent lunch broke its silence every now and then from the Barry’s son and St. Scholastica’s sheep dog. What a joy!
The Followers of the Way, a new religious Society, was established on June 30th at a gathering held at the Abbey of the Way in Worcester. It is designed for clergy and Christian lay workers and their spouses, who seek to encourage each other in being the holy people of God and walk together with a rule of life that focuses particularly on prayer and is based on the Virtues promoted by the Abbey of the Way. Though started by those in the Anglican Church of North America, it is open to all who agree with ACNA doctrine and discipline. Although we will not live in physical community, the members’ Mother House is The Abbey of the Way.
The following statement comes from the Followers of the Way Rule of Life: “We desire to be contemplatives in action who draw from the wellsprings of intimacy with God as the primary source of life and ministry. Though we have been sent by God into the world as His missionaries, we recognize that we are also sent by Him into our hearts, minds, and wills so that we can be transformed into His likeness.”