If you look for new life, you will find it. God is on the move everywhere on the face of the earth, and the traces of his footsteps can be found by those who long to keep in step with him. Sometimes, though, he finds you. That happened to us this Summer.
Cynthia and I were in the very first days of our residence in Florence when we walked down an ancient and narrow street, only to spy a lovely pot of flowers next to a small hand made sign, at the bottom of several ancient steps. The sign advertised a little shop selling goods made in a monastery. Cynthia was immediately drawn in, and met a beautiful young French Roman Catholic nun, who helped her in English. She explained a little about her community to my dear wife, and gave her a brochure in Italian! Not being a congenital shopper, I stayed on the street outside.
When we got back to our flat, I sat down with the brochure and our Italian/English phrase book and tackled the translation. The more I could understand, the more intrigued I became. At some point, remembering that I am alive in 2016, I reached for my computer and “Googled” the monastic group. There, in English, I found introduction to a wonderfully gospel-filled new community called “The Monastic Community of Jerusalem.” What I read was so compelling that we decided to attend worship with the community the next day. When we did, to our delight, we joined a community filled with the Spirit of Christ Jesus. No doubt about it.
This new community began in 1975, in France, and so has not had a long time to prove the character of its calling, but the evidence is readily at hand, so far as I can see. We learned that there are now communities in five cities in France, in two cities in Italy, and one each in a city in Belgium, Germany, Poland, and Canada. They are a modern expression of the contemplative life lived by monks and nuns for over 1500 years, but they are alive with the love of God and his Word and Spirit. How wonderful.
The Bishop of the Diocese they are placed in has given them an empty historic church to use, and they have public prayer and worship there six days a week. All are welcome.
On Sunday there were about a hundred communicants, some obviously visitors to Florence, like us. But Florence is a city of over 380,000 people. How many are ever going to just drop in? That is the question left in the heart of this church planting Anglican priest.
I understand what they are doing. I bless it because I believe God does. But it is not enough. There must be a radical new understanding of how the faith of Jesus Christ was once shared by the members of his church, and how a new simple and effective sharing can be reclaimed today, if a city like Florence is to be reached.
I am persuaded, that the prayers of these monks and nuns may well be the harbinger of a new day of faith in Italy and Europe. But that day will require men and women that are called to plant new communities of faith that reach ordinary people too. There will have to be a move of God again in Europe, like the one that Christianized her in the first place. NAMS prays for and longs for that day. NAMS is called to serve that day.
Do you have a heart for Europe? Will you help us?