It is important to understand the background and teaching of the Community of Jesus and of the two women who founded it. Judy Sorensen and Cay Andersen met at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit on Cape Cod in 1958. Evidently, “Cay’s acute discernment proved to be the perfect balance of Judy’s spiritual enthusiasm” and they soon became prayer partners. Two years later, they began a ministry of joint counseling and teaching. According to some of the literature that they published about themselves:
“As their ministry expanded, it changed significantly. Where in the beginning, it had been highlighted by dramatic physical healings and all manner divine manifestations, now it seemed to deepen, to go into the depths of Christ, into the quality of life that brought forth the Fruit of the Spirit—love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
It was at this point that Al and Mary Haig had their first encounter with these women. They later turned to Cay & Judy in 1973 to help their failing private boarding school.
In 1962, the Andersen and Sorensen families melded into one. By 1968, they had taken up residence in the Andersen home on Cape Cod. Later, other families, desiring to live the Christian life in community, joined them. On June 1st, 1970, they officially became the Community of Jesus, a non-profit, non-denominational Church. By 1976, there were 80 permanent, or “called”, members of the Community. Most lived under a vow, accepting “Mothers” Cay and Judy as their spiritual directors. In addition, there were a number of young men and women, who had felt called to a ministry of serving in the celibate state. These “brothers” and “sisters” took vows to the Community analogous to the traditional monastic vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
It is important to note that this Community had no affiliation with the Protestant Episcopal Church. Since Cay and Judy had always been devout Episcopalians, it was their desire that the Chapel services of the Community should be according to the rites of “The Book of Common Prayer”. An Episcopal Priest, Fr Arthur Lane, became the principal Chaplain of the Community. (There were many others, from a variety of denomination affiliations.) Fr Lane, although he had the permission of the local Bishop to function, was canonically “on leave” from his own Diocese.
The teaching of Cay and Judy was based on 1 John 1.6-7: “If we claim to be sharing in his life while we walk in the dark, our words and our lives are a lie; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, then we share together a common life, and we are being cleansed from every sin by the blood of Jesus his Son.”
It is only possible to “live in the light”, if the very depths of self are revealed to us—the totality of our sinful nature. The emphasis in this teaching is that it is the whole truth about oneself that sets us free from the bondage of our sinful nature. Having experienced the shock of this truth, we come to the joyful realization that when Christ died He took our sinfulness to the Cross with him.
In order to learn the whole truth about themselves, the members of the Community join together in a number of groups to minister one to another. The regular meeting of these groups is called a “Light Session”. By openly stating their complete reactions to each other at these meetings, it is believed that the Holy Spirit will reveal to them their sinfulness.
Learning of one’s sin requires constant vigilance. It is, therefore, the responsibility of every one within the Community to point out sin whenever it appears. This type of immediate “correction” results in acknowledgement of sin and confession. The penitent simply offers up the particular sin to Our Lord in order that he might be “cleansed” in His “blood washing”. This confession is made at the time of the “correction”; it is public, specific, and of course, non-sacramental.
When a member of the Community is obstinate in his sin, he may be put on “discipline”. This may be manifested in any one of a number of ways. In each instance, however, some basic element in that person’s life is being broken down.
There are three basic sins: “idolatry”, “control”, and “rebellion”:
- “Idolatry” is simply placing anything or anyone between yourself and God. This has far reaching consequences, which are not clearly defined; for example, at what point does that natural love that a mother feels for her baby become idolatrous?
- “Control” describes all those situations in which our own will is exhibited as trying to initiate and/or direct any course of action. Before any action, however small or great, may be undertaken, it is necessary to refer the matter to someone else. If they do not have a “check” on it, that is an objection, it may be done.
- “Rebellion” occurs when one’s own will is preferred to the Will of God. When any of the children of the Community, for example, decided that it is time to leave home and to establish themselves either at university or in a job, their action may be considered to be rebellious. It is not clear how the Will of God is determined in any given situation: is it simply the will of the Mothers? Or, is it the group mind?