"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Wednesday, 11 June 2014


Chemin Neuf Community celebrates its 40th anniversary in Nazareth
This is a case of the Holy Spirit taking an insignificant charismatic prayer group, one like any other, and blessing it so that it becomes subject to extraordinary growth and bears a great variety of fruit. As someone said, "diversity is divine, but division is diabolical"; and this spiritual family shows great diversity because it brings together different vocations in one community,, priests, religious and lay people, single and married, and because, in Chemin Neuf Communion, it brings together people from different churches that are separated from one another for hundreds of years. There are now about 2,000 members in 30 countries.   In England the majority, so I am told, are Anglicans; but there are a good number of Catholics too.

There are about 300 members to have chosen celibacy as a way of life.   Around 150 are priests and brothers preparing for the Catholic priesthood, and 150 are sisters.   They take the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

In Chemin Neuf houses, the pattern of each day is guided by the prayer of the community - personal prayer and Morning Prayer, Mass (generally at midday), Evening Prayer and silent prayer or Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

The celibate brothers and sisters serve, as do the couples, in retreat houses, parishes, student residences, various sessions and formation programmes run by the community.

Like other modern communities, there is emphasis on Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (from the West) and the veneration of icons (from the East).  This is bound up with the conviction that Christ manifests himself, not only by words to our ears, but through visible people and things to our eyes, by the power of the Holy Spirit; and that Beauty, in whatever form it takes, is the reflection of the presence of the Holy Spirit in nature.   Matthew 13:16 - "Blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear"  is as true for us who see through faith as it was for the first Christians.   Indeed it is our vocation to make revelation visible through our lives, and recognise Christ however he manifests himself.  

Kristina Cooper visits the Chemin Neuf community in Langport in Somerset and finds out about their charism of unity and formation
taken from the Good News archives,2 007

Kristina Cooper: Chemin Neuf, which means “New Way”, is one of the new charismatic covenant communities to have emerged from the Catholic charismatic renewal in the last 40 years. It was founded in Lyon, France in the early 70s, by a group of young people led by a Jesuit priest, Laurent Fabre. Chemin Neuf now has 1200 members worldwide with communities in 21 countries in Europe, Africa, America and the Middle East. It also has had for the last eight years or so a permanent house in the west country at St Gildas Christian Centre in a sleepy Somerset village.

Although it is a Roman Catholic community Chemin Neuf has what it calls an “ecumenical vocation” and counts among its members those who belong to Orthodox and Protestant denominations as well as Roman Catholics. It first came to England, in fact, through the auspices of Anglican vicar, Charles Hadley and his wife, Felicity, who while on sabbatical in France had been very impressed by the Cana programme that Chemin Neuf runs for married couples and families. The Hadleys invited the community to run Cana in England, which they have done since 1994. Cana as well as helping participants improve their marriages also introduces participants to the spirituality and ethos of Chemin Neuf, which combines the insights of Ignatian spirituality with charismatic renewal. Key to the community’s vocation is the call to unity on every level – within the human person, unity between couples within marriage, unity between the generations and unity between nations and especially Christian unity, which they work very much for.

The links fostered by Cana grew and eight years ago Chemin Neuf was officially invited to take over the running of St Gildas, a Roman Catholic retreat centre in Langport, Somerset. It was here I came some months ago to find out what they were up to.

“English language school”

At the time of my visit there were about a dozen or so young people from various parts of the world staying with the community and doing one of their English language schools. These are both an opportunity for young people to learn or improve their English, and to grow in faith, as well as helping them discern their vocation in life. Classes are given by retired teachers and English conversation is provided on a one-to-one basis by locals. Marie Christine Ferry, who with her husband, Dominique, leads the UK community, comments, “This helps to build up the relationship between the generations which is part of our calling. Some of the young people have had difficult backgrounds and there is a lot of healing of family wounds that happens through the love and support they receive.” Many, even those with nominal faith, are often baptised in the Holy Spirit by the end of their three month stay. 

As well as providing formation for young people on a residential level, the community also run spiritual accompaniement courses for those from outside. These take place every month or so on 8 Saturdays in the year. Here I met several well known faces from the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the South West who are benefiting from the community’s expertise in spiritual direction and inner healing, both for themselves and to equip them to help others.

Although most of the Chemin Neuf community in the UK at the moment are English and Anglican, leaders Dominique and Marie Christine are French and Roman Catholic. They have been here for five years. The community, like many of the established lay covenant communities has various levels of belonging, from being part of a neighbourhood Chemin Neuf fraternity, which meets weekly to being part of a residential community, where there is a shared purse and a daily prayer commitment.

 One of the innovations of the new covenant lay communities is the way that both families and consecrated celibates are given the possibility of living committed community life together.

Dominique and Marie Christine have been members of Chemin Neuf for almost 25 years. It was through a crisis in their own relationship, followed by a spontaneous baptism in the Holy Spirit, that they came to reassess their lives and priorities. Marie Christine comments, “Everything looked perfect on the outside but we never talked about what was going on or what was important to us.” At the time Dominique was head of the biggest newspaper and publishing company in France. He and Marie Christine seemed the model Catholic couple, socially and financially successful and very committed in their parish helping with children’s liturgy and other tasks. But Dominique comments, “Our experience of the parish life was that we were welcomed to do things, but there was no support for the spiritual life. We felt we needed something more if we were to continue on our spiritual journey.”

“Leave your nets and follow Me”

The sisters of Bethlehem, whom they went to on retreat suggested that they go to Cana where they met Laurent Fabre the founder of Chemin Neuf. He, in turn, suggested they spend some time with them but visit other similar communities to discover where they felt most at home. It was while with Chemin Neuf, however, that Dominique and Marie Christine both separately received the same word from the Lord, “Leave your nets and come follow me and I will make your fishers of men”. They knew they were being called to give up everything and work full time for Chemin Neuf. This was a huge challenge for Dominique because of his career but they realised it was a necessary step for the good of the family and if they wanted to grow spiritually. He comments, “I knew that it was the Lord Jesus speaking to me and there was no thought of saying no. At the same time of course there were many questions such as ‘Can you be a married couple with children in a community like this?’”

He remembers. “When we joined the community, it was still a young community and we were greatly helped by church leaders and their wisdom. The archbishop of Lyons, for example said that each family must have its own private space and gradually we learnt to find the right rhythm of life.”

“Awoke with England on my lips”

Dominique and Marie Christine were given the task of running the retreat house in Les Pothi?res and they later went on to hold many positions of responsibility as a couple in the running of the community. Dominique, who was ordained a deacon in 1989, also worked for the archbishop of Lyon for 3 years. It was after nine years at the helm of the community in France, that Dominique and Marie Christine went to see the founder Laurent to discern where the Lord might be calling them to next. Marie Christine comments, “Laurent suggested various possibilities including coming to England. I wasn’t at all keen as I am not very good at languages and felt I was too old.” But while on retreat she received a word from the Lord and a visitation. She remembers “I awoke with the word England on my lips and full of a peace and joy I could not believe.”

Dominique similarly felt England was where they were being called, particularly because of his ecumenical experience and background. “Coming to England and opening a community here,” he comments, “is something very new for us. It is very different from what we have experienced before. We are in the process of learning how to be a catholic community when you are not in the majority.” Over the last five years the little band at St Gildas have been slowly making their mark. Dominique has recently been elected the chairman of the newly formed diocesan service committee for CCR of the Clifton diocese and many good things are happening locally on an ecumenical level, which Chemin Neuf has helped to instigate, including a Thursday evening ecumenical prayer meeting and the NET for God which takes place once a month for prayer, discussion and formation among Christians of the different churches.

“Support what is here”

It is still all quite small potatoes, however, compared to the huge work the community do in France and elswhere where literally thousands attend their Cana retreats and other sessions. Marie Christine, however, is quite at peace with this and comments, “In January 2005, we told the other leaders of Chemin Neuf that the situation in England is not like that in other countries and our role here is different. We see our role is to support those things that are already happening here. We might not see the growth of the seeds we have sown but that doesn’t matter. I don’t need to see them. I believe our seeds are very precious for the Lord and it is part of a bigger plan. It was the same in Germany for 10-15 years it was very hard for the community, but suddenly things began to happen and I believe that it will be the same here too.”

Perhaps one sign of this new opening is that Dominique has just been elected onto the English National Service team and the community have just run their first three month residential foundation course, “Cycle A”.

The Community

If you would like to know more about their work, contact them at St Gilda’s Christian Centre, The Hill, Langport, Somerset TA10 9QF. Tel 01458 250 496

Community Manifesto
Life commitments.
Because Jesus gave up his own life to give us life, in turn, aware of our weaknesses, irrevocably, we commit our lives.

Because whether consecrated in celibacy or in the bonds of marriage, we want to live according to the love of God, we count on the help of our brothers and sisters to grow in faithfulness.

Because the hunger of those who starve to death has no other solution than our sharing, because simply to dream of a more just and fraternal society is not enough, from now on, starting today, 
we share our possessions.

Because our children enjoy living in community while many other children are poor and naked, because we want to pass on to them the sense and reality of a better world, we choose to share our inheritance.

Because truth is priceless and lies are all too common; because truth sets us free,we try to be true to one another.

Because divisions between Christians are the greatest obstacle to evangelisation; because we believe that the prayer of Jesus Christ for unity will be fulfilled: “that they may all be one so that the world may believe”, together, Orthodox,, Catholics, without waiting any longer, we follow the humble path of shared daily life.

Because we want to be available for the abundant harvest and because Jesus saves the world through his obedience,
we choose to live in obedience and submission to each other.

Because the power of the Holy Spirit is able to match the problems of our time, and the strength of God triumphs through our weakness,we ask the Holy Spirit for help.

Because of our love for each other, 
because joy is more powerful than anything else,we commit our lives 
in the Chemin Neuf Community to serve the Church and the Unity of Christians.

BECAUSE JESUS HAVING LOVED HIS OWN WHO WERE IN THE WORLD, LOVED THEM TO THE END...Because Jesus gave up his own life to give us life, in turn, aware of our weaknesses, irrevocably, we commit our lives.

Because whether consecrated in celibacy or in the bonds of marriage, 
we want to live according to the love of God, we count on the help of our brothers and sisters to grow in faithfulness. 

Because the hunger of those who starve to death has no other solution than our sharing, because simply to dream of a more just and fraternal society is not enough, from now on, starting today, 
we share our possessions.

Because our children enjoy living in community while many other children are poor and naked, because we want to pass on to them the sense and reality of a better world, we choose to share our inheritance.

Because truth is priceless and lies are all too common; because truth sets us free,we try to be true to one another. 

 Father, make them one: Chemin Neuf community comes to Lambeth Palace 
Thursday 20th February 2014

 In a joyful ceremony with guests from Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran churches, Archbishop Justin welcomes four members of international ecumenical community to Lambeth Palace in a 'radical and exciting step' for Christian unity Watch a short video about the new Chemin Neuf community at Lambeth Palace The Archbishop of Canterbury today welcomed four members of the international ecumenical foundation Chemin Neuf to live as a praying community at Lambeth Palace. The community, who have been invited to live at Lambeth Palace by Archbishop Justin, consist of a married Anglican couple, Ione and Alan Morley-Fletcher; a Lutheran training for ministry, Oliver Matri; and a Roman Catholic consecrated sister, Ula Michlowicz. Together they will share in the daily round of prayer that underpins the Archbishop's ministry, and further the ecumenical and international dimensions of his work. The first of three priority areas for Archbishop Justin’s ministry over the coming years is the renewal of prayer and the religious life within the Church. In a special service attended by senior Anglican, Roman Catholic, Lutheran clergy and other guests, the Archbishop spoke of the importance of the Chemin Neuf community taking up residence at Lambeth Palace. Archbishop Justin said: "There has never been a renewal of the Church in Western Europe without a renewal of prayer and the life of religious communities. If we want to see things changed, it starts with prayer. “I am deeply moved that in God’s grace Chemin Neuf agreed to this radical and exciting new step of coming to live as a community of prayer, hospitality and learning at Lambeth Palace. We pray that this step of obedience will bear fruit among us, and for the Church.” Fr Laurent Fabre, founder and Superior General of the Chemin Neuf community, said: “Four-hundred and eighty years it has been, and we are rejoicing over this new step [towards unity]. But the one who is rejoicing most is the Father himself, because 480 years of waiting is long even for God. This is a first step of something new.” The Archbishop’s Chaplain, the Revd Dr Jo Wells, said: “It’s fantastic to have Chemin Neuf among us. Their presence reminds us that the Church is bigger than the Church of England or the Anglican Communion. It also reminds that we don’t need to do separately what we can do together – and what we do together, we do better.” The four members of the Chemin Neuf community expressed their excitement at being able to support Lambeth Palace as a place of Christian unity centred on prayer. Alan Morley-Fletcher said: “What excited me most about the prospect of coming to Lambeth Palace was the idea of being able to be an ecumenical witness in an Anglican centre here in the middle of London. We’ll be praying particularly for the Archbishop and for all the activities that he undertakes. But we’ll be praying further than that for the Anglican Church and wider outside the Anglican Church – for the way that things are done and decided here that affects the move towards Christian unity.” Oliver Matri said: “For me as a Lutheran, living and praying at the heart of the Anglican Communion is a very exciting way of putting this commitment into practice. We pray for a different diocese each day, which is a very tangible way of linking up with this church that is present all over the world.” Ula Michlowicz said: “Being part of this great ecumenical adventure is for me, as a Catholic Sister, a huge privilege. To be together around the altar during the daily community Eucharist is a deep experience of both communion and the suffering of separation. I just remain with Jesus washing our feet, of all of us. It gives me strength.” Ione Morley-Fletcher said: “I feel very privileged to have been invited to come and live out the prayer of Jesus ‘that they may all be one’ here amongst the diversity of traditions within our own Community, and all those represented in Lambeth Palace, and to pray for this unity.” 

To see other new regious communities with similarities, click on
COMMUNITY OF BETHLEHEM (ecumenical dimension)


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