My Vocation Story.
Hi my name is Br Alasdair CFC (Community of Francis and Clare) http://www.cfcfranciscans.org I am a first year Novice in this new community which is based in the Episcopal Church USA. Our Community formed in November 2018 and adopted its rule of life in May 2019 in Chicago IL USA.
I am not new to the religious life as I was formerly a professed member in the Third Order of the Society of St Francis. My Community the Community of Francis and Clare is a contemporary vowed community of religious women and men who live a common life of prayer and service within The Episcopal Church, its Communion Partners, and the worldwide Anglican Communion.
We seek to follow Jesus in the Franciscan tradition by living simply and humbly, serving and praying with and for the marginalized members of our communities and by helping to re-build the church in our day to day contexts. As a contemporary expression of the Franciscan tradition, members – lay and clergy, partnered or single- live individually, in common or with their families and support themselves through secular or church-related employment. We have diverse ministries in our communities, as the Spirit and the needs of the church lead us.
The Community of Francis and Clare defines itself within the Canons of the Episcopal Church as follows;
A Christian Community of this Church under this Canon is a society of Christians (also in communion with the See of Canterbury) who voluntarily commit themselves for life, or a term of years, in obedience to their Rule and Constitution and whose member not necessarily are celibate or live in community. (Cf. Title III. Canon 14 of The Episcopal Church Constitution and Canons) The CFC is an Associate Member of the National Association of Episcopal Christian Communities (NAECC). https://www.naecc.net/
As more vocations emerge it is hoped that a province will emerge within the UK.
At present in the Church of England we have three brothers and at least one other exploring a vocation with us.
I am also a Parish Priest and I serve as Rector of Wyke Regis in Salisbury Diocese.
My own journey has been a long one. I first heard about St Francis while a part of the Ichthus Fellowships in London where I was training in Evangelism and Church Planting back in 1991. The Ichthus fellowship had a real heartfelt call to the “last the lost and the least” and often its founder Roger Forster would speak of his great love of Francis of Assisi. Often he would share of the Franciscan’s exploits in Church History lectures and I became captivated by the way and message of the little man of Assisi.
It was while working among London’s homeless and drug addicts that I began to feel something stirring in me of a Franciscan vocation. I later returned to Kent where I worked as a Church Planter and Youth Worker before moving to Calais, France to live on the ZUP a huge area of social housing. Our home was next to the famous Jungle where I would minister in a very deprived community with profound poverty and drug dependence issues as well as feeding refugees and asylum seekers who lived at the end of our street destitute and without help. To support my family I also worked part time as a night manager of a homeless hostel where I was responsible for people’s wellbeing and for their laundry.
Towards the end of my time in France my sense of vocation increased and I returned to the UK and was appointed as the CEO of the Derby City Mission, https://www.derbycitymission.org.uk/ . Here we ministered to Derby’s most deprived people through homeless drop-ins and night shelters. We also provided Debt Benefit and Welfare Advice, as well as myself becoming involved in beginning Derby Street Pastors.
The call into Franciscan community grew stronger when I read Ian Morgan Cron’s book Chasing Francis. This story cemented my call and led me to read Brother Ramon’s Book Franciscan Spirituality. These were Eureka moments as it became more and more clear I was called to the religious life in the way of St Francis of Assisi.
The challenge was how? I began to enquire into the Third Order of the Society of St Francis, https://tssf.org.uk and for a number of years journeyed with them to profession. However it was always an awkward fit for me and it felt like a home for me because there was nowhere else to go. I am deeply grateful for my time in TSSF as it was foundational in teaching me to pray the office and opened for me wonderful times of retreat to Glasshampton Monastery, Hillfield Friary, and Alnmouth as well as to Assisi. These all made me long to live a deeper Franciscan call. Deep within me I felt a stronger desire to community, a common rule of life, and a commitment to the context I was called to serve, living among and identifying with the poor. I couldn’t become a First Order brother in the SSF as I was called as a Parish Priest and as a Husband and Father. It was then that I discovered that in the C of E there were three other Franciscans who were a part of an Anglican Order of Brothers so I enquired there.
Consequent to the changes in Canon Law in both the Church of England some of these Brothers of this order began to have a vision of a new Community of both Brothers and Sisters living a dispersed life under a Common rule and a deep commitment to formation and identification with the poor. At last I had found a group of Franciscans whose shape of community, rule and life matched my own sense of life call. So it was with joy in June this year I made my Novice promises and was clothed in the Habit of penance. I will later receive the Cross of the Community when I am professed hopefully in two years’ time.
My journey has been a circuitous one. My new Community while still young and small is being blessed with many enquiries to vocations. My hope and prayer is that it will find something of a niche place within the Anglican Family of Religious Communities.
Should you be interested to know more about us as a Community you can contact our Vocations team at CFCfranciscans.org alternatively directly to myself on @AlasdairKay on Twitter or through Facebook.