The answer to “why a society” is threefold. First, we, those who have founded this particular society, need it for the sake of our souls. We think others might need it as well. Second, we believe the Church needs – as she has often needed in the past – societies whose purpose it is to gather Christians who, faithful to the Church and her mission, are willing in their secular vocations and in their parish ministries, to live their lives in mutual accountability according to a specific and demanding rule of life. Finally, we believe the world needs such Christian societies. As a mission arm of the Church such societies can be powerful agents of social transformation through adhesion to the source of all life.
I. For Individuals
As individual Christians we are at sea in a world that is by now dogmatically secular and that is exerting enormous pressure on Christians to keep their faith private, unrelated either to the life of the mind or to the common good. It is a self-help tool, experiential and personal. Furthermore, our culture is not supportive of a life of discipline and commitment. We are encouraged to seek our own happiness at all costs as long as we don’t infringe on the rights of others. This pressure, added to our human propensity to rebellion against God, makes us prone to complacency, unbelief, living without roots.
We, the founders of the society, have recognized that only through constant exposure to the great mysteries of the sacraments, the scriptural proclamation of grace, and through bonds of affection and interdependency are we sustained and pushed forward in our life of faith, particularly in this culture. A call to a life of worship as well as mentors and fellows that call us constantly to act wisely and think deeply create the possibility for personal transformation, which in turn enables us to act on our world.
It is our hope that the Society provides an intense alternative pressure to that which is being placed on us by our culture. We want to do so by committing ourselves to this life, one that presses towards faithfulness, the labor of the mind, leadership, and a life of Worship. If we as members commit ourselves to this in an intentional way we can exert this alternative pressure on others in the Church and the world with integrity as a body. Thus we need a Society to bind us to the life of the Church, and to one another, in a formal way, in order that we might in turn love others and lend them strength from the support we have received. We need a Society in order to help us to be accountable to a rule of life and rule of study that deepens the well of possibility in order that we might intoxicate others with the possibilities we perceive. We seek to remind the Church, and especially the young ‘before their leisure has been lost and their capacity for thought destroyed’ as T.S. Eliot put it, of our need for roots.
II. For the Church
The current culture of the Anglican Church of Canada is permeated with anxiety about its identity, validity and viability. This anxiety arises from a lack of trust in the providence of God. Furthermore, this anxiety has led the Church to capitulate to the secularization of our culture by developing reactionary doctrines based on political correctness ungrounded from the Creeds of the Ancient Church and the priority of robust and confident Worship.
In this anxious environment the Church uses bureaucracy, management and therapeutic models as controls in order to lessen its fear. However, these models, when used as patterns of control, consume massive amounts of time and energy which otherwise would have been spent on parish ministry. This becomes a vicious cycle to which none of us are immune, and which is increasingly difficult to resist due to the sheer exhaustion in leadership.
It is our hope that the Society is a mission generating prophetic energy to drive the church back towards her foundations. Reminding Her with fresh joy and profound love, through the simplicity of ardent participation in worship and a passion for the intellectual life of the church, of the transcendent Beauty of the Godhead who rules all of history. It is also our hope by standing this ground to be a beacon of light for young Christians seeking something suitably fierce to which to commit their lives.
III. For the World
Canadian social and political life, dominated by liberalism, either in the form of secular liberalism or religious neo-conservativism, has become largely managerial, procedural, and increasingly captive to single issue politics. These cultural phenomena lead those living within them to neglect the poetic “imagination of variousness and possibility, which implies the awareness of complexity and difficulty,” as the liberal critic Lionel Trilling once argued. We, as individuals and as the Church, need something powerful and intellectually deep enough to provide us with spiritually satisfying alternatives to the present consensus.
In our culture we need the Church and her members to be a place of possibility, particularly the possibility of social transformation A place that understands and acts on the understanding that things are possible, dreams are possible, vocations are possible and that re-evangelizing our culture is possible. This faith of possibility, rooted in Christ, is both individual and corporate. The world needs the Church to believe – and to act as if it believes – that the conversion of a soul and the re-evangelization of our cultural imaginaries is possible.
It is our hope that the Society will be a place of possibility. We believe that a Society is an intense way of forming people that makes possible social transformation in the world. A Society recognizes our co-inherence in the body of Christ and in so doing it realizes (makes real) the bonds of affection that provide sustenance through the changes and chances of this world. Rooted in worship these bonds support the possibility of impacting the world.