A Vision for an Anglican Educational Community

Anglicans have always had a great commitment to learning. We have a rich tradition of clergy-scholars, and more importantly, of educational institutions committed to forming hearts and minds for Christ. The history of Christianity in the British Isles inspires admiration for bishops, priests and laity who have sought to form young lives for Christian service through educational institutions.

I fear, though, that Anglicanism's educational identity has not weathered well the storms of the modern world and I suspect that the failure of education in the Anglican way has helped lead us to the crisis we are in. We see revisionism ripe in our seminaries. We see primary, secondary and higher educational institutions moving away from a Christian identity all together. And at the parish level, it is far too common to find uneducated laity, who cannot effectively disciple others in the basics of Scripture and doctrine. So we need to renew and deepen our commitment to the authority of Scripture. We need to renew and deepen our commitments to discipleship and mission. We need laity and clergy who genuinely cherish a Christian worldview and can thoughtfully, creatively confront the challenges of an increasingly post-Christian world. We need to enrich our educational communities so that they become training grounds for genuinely being the church, for truly submitting to one another in love under the lordship of Christ.

I believe, however, that intentional community in an educational context holds real promise. Of course, it will not 'solve' these problems, as if any single initiative could accomplish such a task. Rather, just like the religious communities of the Middle Ages, intentional educational community can provide a bulwark for orthodoxy. It can be the place where essentials are cherished and handed down, preserved amidst the ravages of the age. Intentional educational communities of the sort I envision could cultivate deeply Christian habits of heart and mind in the next generation.

Here, then, is my vision:

At colleges around the nation, Anglicans should start small, residential houses where students could live together, worship together, study together. It might seem like a fraternity/sorority house, but with key differences. A room in the house should be dedicated as a chapel. Each day's activities should be structured around the rhythm of Morning and Evening Prayer, so students would learn the habit of praying the Daily Office. A house director could serve as a spiritual director for the residents, and if ordained could celebrate the Eucharist daily. Other Anglicans at the host college/university could attend as well. They might also attend reading groups or lectures, hosted by the house. I could envision tutorial-type courses be accredited through the host college or else through an Anglican/Episcopal seminary for grad credit. One variation on my vision would have a residential director who was also a faculty member at the host college/university. That professor could offer Anglican Studies-type courses under the aegis of the house.

Residents would share meals, cleaning and chores, and in addition to the other formation activities. They would learn to live in community together. A particular focus of these Houses could be the cultivation of a missional outlook in the residents. Help them catch the vision for communal living as a means of mission--to the poor and needy, in urban contexts or suburban, in north America or abroad. The idea is that life shared together can be a great training in grace, especially at a key point in life like college.

For my part, I would call them Keble Houses, after John Keble, the great leader of the Anglo-Catholic renewal in the Church of England, the Oxford Movement. He was a man of great learning, deep and humble spirituality and reformist fervor--the very traits these houses seek to pass on to their residents.

On the whole, the House would serve as a focal point for training college students in the Anglican Way. It would be a place that would pass on the best of Anglican spirituality and theology and whose ethos would always be outward looking--of bringing the grace they received at the House to a needy world.

Comments

  1. I love everything about this proposal except Keble! I'm too Reformed for that, but nevertheless...

    We should not be afraid to start small. Even a small group in a given location can snowball and make a large impact over time.

    In my utopia of making one city a gathering point for Anglican mission, I see a university, small at fist, at the center.

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  2. Hey, Joel, I've come up with another name more recently: Corpus Christi House! Or is that still 'too catholic' for you? ; ) There's the resonance between liturgy and ecclesiology--that even as the residents would daily partake of the body of Christ at the table, they are living in community, the body of Christ in that house. There is also the connection to Oxford's Corpus Christi college where Hooker and Keble both studied.

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