The Religious Life

The Religious life is way of living the Christian life. It is not something exotic but a call to prayer and service.
Two elderly nuns sitting in church pews together Diocese of Derby

Those committing to the Religious life take vows and make promises to God. Such vows can take different forms and are the mark of monks and nuns, friars and sisters. 

The vows differ by community, but all include:

  • Living a simple life and sharing possessions (poverty)
  • Refraining from sexual or exclusive relationships (chastity)
  • Setting aside the freedom to do as we please and instead committing to listening to others (obedience).

All these vows involve deep and positive values of attending to God and living together. The Religious life is demanding yet joyful, a way to find God and relate to the challenges of today’s society.

 

An open bible with hands clasped resting on it in prayer

 

History

God has called many people through centuries to live this life. Among Anglicans though there were no nuns and monks until the mid-19th century. Then the revival of Religious communities was embraced by the Victorians as a way of mission and service.

Of the many communities founded, some pioneered nursing or education for the poor, or reached out to wayfarers. Others concentrated on evangelistic work both in Britain and overseas. All led a dedicated life of prayer alongside their ministries, and some developed into places devoted to prayer alone.  

 

Community life

Most communities are women only or men only; some are of both. Some wear distinctive clothes (a ‘habit’), others do not. Some are engaged in the world, others are more oriented to prayer. Members of communities can be lay or ordained. 

Community life – like family life - is not always easy, but the practice of loving forgiveness builds bonds that go beyond difference. This is a witness to a fragmented and divided society.

 

Joining a religious community

The best way forward for anyone interested in the life is to visit different communities and experience the way of life as a visitor first.  Many communities provide opportunities for people to live alongside them for longer periods of time.

Participants commit to helping with the work of the monastery or community - and there is no obligation to join the community afterwards unless the person wishes to explore further.

If you’d like to find out more you can find a map of religious communities here.

Active Communities
Contemplative communities
New Monasticism
Benedictines
Franciscans
Religious Life Glossary