The restoration of the religious life to the Anglican Church was an enduring achievement of the Oxford Movement. Three hundred years after monasteries were swept away from this country, members of the Church of England felt again the call to serve God in communities.
The early Sisters faced hostility from clergy and laity, who regarded them as agents of popery. Today, memÂbers of the religious orders are found in many dioceses and are represented in General Synod. Countless people are deeply grateful to these Anglicans who have followed a vocation to live under vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Religious have provided havens for those living their Christian vocation outside community walls; they have worked in the grimmest parishes; and they have guided individuals through spiritual direction. They have supÂported the Church by their prayers, and borne witness to the priority of the things of the spirit. They have been both visible and invisible: seen when engaged in pastoral work, and hidden when in community.
Something is now clearly amiss with our religious communities, howÂever. Membership is rapidly declinÂing, average age is high, recruitment is desperately low, and some communÂities have ceased to exist. Many who come to test a vocation leave before taking vows, and some of those actually in vows have also left.