Intro to Saint Hilda’s House

After having written my previous post about the ways in which Saint Hilda‘s House lives into the ancient and ever new monastic tradition, I realize that I failed to give any semblance of context.

The sort of “elevator speech” is that Saint Hilda’s is a year-long service-oriented, intentional living community of the Episcopal Service Corps sponsored by Christ Church Episcopal, New Haven, Connecticut. There are nine women and men living together in the converted parish rectory. We serve in five different non-profit organizations throughout the greater New Haven area. In addition to our work, we study, live, pray, and eat together. Saint Hilda’s House was the name of the community of Episcopal deaconesses who formerly served in and with Christ Church parish.

Although Saint Hilda’s is a program of the Episcopal Service Corps, the program is much more community-centric–at least as far as I’ve experienced it thus far. We spend four days each week working with our volunteer service site (mine is Boost!–more on that later), but seven days a week living with one another. Living in community, as we are all very quickly finding out is more than being roommates. Living together in community is about synthesizing the different experiences, world views, vantage points, preferences, habits, idiosyncrasies, and boundaries of nine completely different individuals. Though we are all certainly friends to some extent or another, we are more than friends. In some ways, we are siblings. This is another monastic connection that I don’t think I realized until a few days ago. I enjoy the people with whom I live, although that would not be necessary in order to live in community. An appreciation of the differences and a celebration of the diversity of each person is the most important–indeed, the foundational–piece of community living.

My service site, Boost!, is a partnership of the Greater New Haven United Way (technically our “employers”), the City of New Haven, and the New Haven Board of Education. The Boost! program is designed to provide  “wrap around” services (here defined as non- or extra-curricular programming aimed at bettering the lives of students.) I could (and very likely will) write more explaining Boost! and some of my experiences with it–but that’s another post for another day. We’re still in the Boost! orientation currently. We’ll be placed in our schools mid next week. As soon as we begin that process, I think that things will ease up and anxieties will dissipate a little bit.

Our week here is very systematic. We begin every day with Morning Prayer according to the Book of Common Prayer. As much as I love the Daily Office, I’m finding this particular expression of the liturgy to be quite frustrating. The Office as prayed in the parochial context feels much different than when prayed in a monastic context. As much as I am open (or try to be open) to the various expressions of liturgy, I’m finding myself quite defensive of the Office as prayed in the monastic context. This is another post for another day, as well. As a student of liturgy, I think that this is the perfect topic–the comparison of monastic and cathedral liturgy.

Fridays are spent in community, away from our worksites. We begin, as usual with Morning Prayer, followed closely by Didactic (a fancy Anglo-Catholic, Saint Hilda’s term for a theological seminar.) We discuss various topics of theological import. This morning was a reading from The Gospel and the Catholic Church by ++Michael Ramsey, former Archbishop of Canterbury. We read Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer last week. The topics change weekly. We come from such a wide range of theological perspectives–from questionably Christian to almost Romish observance. As you might imagine, the conversational perspectives ranges just as much if not more.

There will be more later. I promise.

In the mean time, be well.

In the God of community, Cody

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