The article below was actually a page on their website when they were a “community.” Notice how wonderful it all sounds. Just 10 years later, everyone abandoned it and someone wrote this review at the MerchantCircle.com website.
Life in Community
by Bishop Philip Zampino
In February of 1967 my wife Jean and I were on Retreat on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. The Retreat leaders spoke of their vision of Community and they also shared about the Presence of the Lord. He demonstrated His Presence through wonders I, as a Seminary student at Berkeley Divinity School, did not understand. Like many of my contemporaries, I was being educated intellectually but the things of the Holy Spirit were foreign to me. At one point, I slipped out of the Retreat and took a walk out on the ice of Cape Cod Bay. I remember praying and asking God to show me whether these manifestations of the Holy Spirit were real. I began immediately to pray in tongues and was so filled with awe, fear, pride, and control, it would be years before I would tell Jean or anyone else.
Two important things happened at that Retreat. The most obvious was receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the Gift of Tongues. Thirty one years later, I am just beginning to grasp the second important event. The Holy Spirit planted a seed in me that would one day draw me to become a Cofounder and Superior of a Religious Community. In the early 1970s that seed was nourished. As a Priest in the Episcopal Church, USA, I was drawn by the Holy Spirit to visit an Episcopal Church in the Southwest which had established a large Community within its Parish. I remember living, worshiping, and sharing with this wonderful group of people for about a week. The Sunday morning Eucharist was especially moving. I wept almost uncontrollably for over two hours. During that time I sensed the Holy Spirit telling me that while this was not where I was Called, I would find my home in Community life.
Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s the sense of a Call to Community would not leave me; and in 1982 Jean, our three children, and I moved onto the property now the site of the Life in Jesus Community.
When the Life in Jesus Community began to take form in 1982, we had already been given a gift from God to encourage and cultivate the Call He placed on our lives. That gift was love and encouragement from two other Communities with two entirely different expressions of Religious Life. One was a modern Community with a Call to preserve the ancient traditions of the Church, while working ecumenically as a contemporary expression of their life together. By God's Grace this Community had weathered much of the turmoil of the ’60s and ’70s and was flourishing. The other Community was a traditional Episcopal Convent in existence for more than one hundred years. Although God Called many individuals to help us along the way spiritually and financially, the life lived out by the Power of God in these two Communities has been an influence upon us that has glorified God, and we pray will continue to do so in the centuries that lie ahead.
Naturally, over the last 16 years we have made our share of mistakes and had differences of opinion. Wherever a close relationship exists, inevitably at some point someone will feel hurt or offended. Praise God, we believe more have been blessed than offended. We are not perfect individuals; we are real people who, on occasion, may be impatient or insensitive. There also have been times we failed to discern how God desired to work not only through us but also in our lives. However, knowing the genuine desire of our heart to walk in love and live at peace and in unity with our brothers and sisters, God in His Infinite Mercy and Grace by the Power of the Holy Spirit healed, blessed, and strengthened not only Community Members but literally countless thousands of people who have attended Sunday and Weekday Worship, Healing Services, Retreats, and Short Term Missions, or have come for Spiritual Direction. Even some who have come to test a Call and, for one reason or another did not remain with us, have let us know their time among us was rich, challenging, and transforming to the Glory of God.
We are often asked why God would Call people to live in Community. Scripture tells us in Ps. 133:1, “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” This Psalm gives us an insight into how God desires all of us to live, whether in Community or not. In Community we learn, even as Christians, much of our sin nature reigns and for us to live together in unity there are aspects of each one of us that must die, if any level of unity is to be achieved. Jesus teaches us in the Gospel of John, Chapter 12, verses 24, 25, “...unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Christ has Called all of us to surrender our lives to Him and to serve one another. Those of us who have been Called by Him to Community have known this truth on an intellectual level for years but not until we came together in Community and began to learn more about ourselves than we ever really wanted to know, did death to self really begin to take on real meaning.
One of the greatest lessons I have had to learn over the years is that being right in my own eyes is not necessarily always right with my own interpretations of Scripture I may actually be a hindrance to the working of the Holy Spirit. We have learned many other lessons over the years. When we are weak, stubborn, arrogant, and foolish, He Calls us to repent immediately. Scripture tells us God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. In answering our Call to Community, we are given a wonderful opportunity to respond to His Call to repentance, receive His forgiveness and His Loving, Healing Grace.
As we are healed and forgiven, we find God is far more able to minister through us to others. It is so easy when we are only filled with our own ideas and opinions to communicate empty teachings based upon those ideas and opinions. A person in the process of being healed can speak out of his experience to one in need of healing. Recently, a clergyman I know talked to a drug addict about his addiction. The addict finally said to my friend, “You don’t understand what it’s like!” My friend said, “Yes I do, because I used to be a drug addict and Jesus set me free!” The clergyman was in a far better position to minister than someone who had never experienced the Healing of Jesus. Those who live in Community have known pain in this life in one way or another. As they are healed by Jesus, they stop looking back and choose to live in the present. Rejoicing in God, they are in a position to reach out to others more effectively.
The Bible gives us a model for the establishment of the Church as Community. We see this in the life Jesus lived for three years with His Disciples. We see this, too, in the book of Acts as the early Church came together filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit to strengthen and encourage one another before being sent out to do the work for which they were Called and empowered by God.
Throughout the history of the Church men, women, families, and even children have been Called by God to give themselves to Him for various purposes, especially for the furthering of His Kingdom. During times of civil and cultural decadence, Christian Communities have been formed by people following the Call of God. Those Communities have preserved the Holy Scripture, established schools, Universities, hospitals, orphanages, have made scientific discoveries and, in some instances, been the preservation of life and culture itself.
As a Community, we at Life in Jesus know God desires to work through us in a mighty way. For us, our first Call is to love and worship God. Varieties of worship take place in our Chapel multiple times every day of the week. We are a people of worship and praise. At times the worship is very free in the Holy Spirit at other times it is much more formal. We have learned the earliest Christian records reveal a Liturgical, Sacramental, and Evangelical Church, open to the moving of the Holy Spirit. We seek to maintain these three streams of ancient worship flowing together in one mighty riverbed.
When I speak of Community, some people conjure up a vision of a commune, such as was established by hippies of the ’60s and ’70s. The Community life we live in this place couldn’t be further from that image. The Life in Jesus Community is a Religious Community and our Members are made up of families, single people, and Sisters, all in various stages of spiritual growth from many different Christian backgrounds. We believe God will establish a Brotherhood here in the not too distant future. We all love God so much we want to give our life to Him as fully as we know how. Our giving leads us to bond with Him and with one another and, increasingly, to enter into the depths of the mystery of His Church and His Love. While our life together is centered in worship, we are also a Vowed people following a Rule of life adapted from the ancient Rule of St. Benedict. All Professed Members take Vows of Stability, Convesatio (submission to daily conversion of life), and Obedience. Sisters and Brothers take the additional Vows of Poverty and Chastity. One of the unique qualities of the Rule of St. Benedict is its Call to the balanced life. This balance includes prayer, work, and study. In addition to our corporate prayer life, all Members spend much time in private prayer. Prayer strengthens us in our relationship with God and each other. Work is also an important part of our life together. Our work takes many forms; it may involve anything from cleaning our Chapel to caring for children, mowing lawns, gardening, or working in the ministry office. We are students of Bible, theology, art, music, agriculture, etc. We home school our children and administer a Seminary which trains future clergy of the Church and we provide spiritual direction to people in various walks of life. Through Retreats, Seminars, and other teaching and training opportunities, we as a Community are participating in the Great Commission of Jesus to make disciples. This discipleship training has taken many forms, both domestically and overseas.
Our life together is so full, so rich, and so integrated with God, worship, each other, work, and study, it is almost impossible to give a simple response to a question such as “What do you do?” We seek to surrender our lives to God as a Living Sacrifice (Romans 12:1). Some days we do it better than others. The more we are focused on Christ, living in the present, desiring to forgive, and seeking to die to ourselves, the more we are living out our Call.
Please pray we will always keep our Triune God as the center of our focus. We ask you to pray Christ will use us in the Power of His Holy Spirit to the Glory of our Heavenly Father. Pray we may be effective ministers of God’s Love and Healing Grace. Pray our ministry will be led in all ways by God and that we will not be distracted by the Enemy. Pray God will send men and women Called by Him who are willing to become as living Sacrifices to further His work through this Community. Finally, please pray God will provide benefactors for the Community who will provide financially for the growth, development, and maintenance of the facilities, and who would be willing to help endow our Brotherhood and Sisterhood, providing for housing and daily care in the years to come. I hope this article has helped you understand more fully our life together. If you still have questions, drop us a letter and feel free to ask. Better yet, come worship with us and get a firsthand feel for who we really are. To quote Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “Come and see!”
God Bless you and may He keep you in His loving care.
These articles are copyrighted by the Life In Jesus Community 1998.
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