It is billed as “a year in God’s time” and now the invitation is open to more young people to join the Community of St Anselm for a year at the Archbishop of Canterbury’s home at Lambeth Palace.


People between the ages of 21 and 35 have until the end of March to apply for a place in the ecumenical Community of St Anselm (CoSA). Since it was first founded six years ago, 147 have taken vows to join the community which lives a life of prayer, study and service at Lambeth.


It was named after the Benedictine theologian and philsopher St Anselm, who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 to 1109 and inspired by the ecumenical Chemin Neuf Community of France which the Most Revd Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury visited. He then invited five members of that community to come to Lambeth to set up something similar.


Around 24 young people at a time join the community with half of them living a monastic life at Lambeth and remove themselves from their previous lives. These “immersive” members are joined by “integrated” members on Monday nights and for retreats, but otherwise the integrated members continue with their usual lives and occupations.


The community is guided by members of Chemin Neuf and alumni of St Anselm who provide spiritual direction, while life is lived communally – members help with cooking, cleaning and other tasks, and live by a rule inspired by the rule of St Benedict, taking vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.  Members wear a white alb, or vestment; there is silence between 10pm and 10am; restrictions on mobile phone usage; study of the great saints and teachers of the church including Benedict, Francis of Assisi and the Jesuit founder, Ignatius Loyola, and contemplative prayer. Community members pray together but are encouraged to attend a church of their own denomination as well, while they also work in service, proving help in homeless shelters, for example, or with hospital chaplaincy – work that was permitted to continue through lockdown.




Members of the community come from across the world. Some have gone on to join monastic communities, others to train for the priesthood and the rest have returned to their usual lives, but say they have been transformed by the experience.



Catherine, from Zimbabwe, said:


“When I signed up to join the community, I had preconceived ideas of what spending a year in God’s time might look like: spending hours fasting and praying, reading and studying the bible. Looking back now, we’ve done all that and have got even more than what I signed up for. I began the year with a desire to know God’s will for my life. I expected it to be easy going, but it turned out to be exciting, tough and transforming.


The first step was to trust God fully, which he taught me to do through sharing about myself expecting no reply or comment in return and listening to the stories of others and not commenting. This vulnerability with each other built trust that created friendships. It was a point of realising how God sometimes deals with us: listen as we speak, and comment where nec-essary and how we ought to listen – seeking not to reply but to understand.”


Hannah, from Oxford, said:


“Before I joined St Anselm, seven years of studying and three theology degrees had made me a smartass who could talk with confidence about God’s love, but who had, along the way, annexed knowledge of God’s love to my head and away from my heart.


“I began this year craving a spiritual boot-camp which would finally make me good enough, worthy enough. Instead, this has been a year of God saying ‘I love you.’ In many ways this year, nothing has changed yet everything has; I am no more loved by God than I was at the start of this year, but now I know deep within me that extraordinary and transformative love of Jesus Christ. We have all learned how to be loved this year”.


The ecumenical nature of the community’s vision is significant, Archbishop Welby told The Tablet this week. “This is where Chemin Neuf has been so instrumental”, he said. “Its call to seek the unity of the Church inspires me as I see its members live it each day here at Lambeth (the Roman Catholic members attend the Eucharist but are unable to partake of the elements; from time to time we reverse this by inviting a Roman Catholic priest to celebrate Mass here so that Roman Catholic members of staff and members of CoSA or Chemin Neuf can receive the sacrament and for others of us we are reminded of the pain of division). CoSA is indebted to its example and we see in the diversity of its community life (nearly 40 countries and all major denominations represented over six years) the fruits of this ideal”.


Applications for immersive, full-time membership close at the end of March and for integrated membership, the deadline is the end of July. To apply, see