Today marks the 6th anniversary of my ordination. And this weekend, my friends and family were gathered at Casowasco for our annual retreat. There were great sessions and meals and times of prayer. And Saturday, there were others who were noviced and ordained into the ministry. The community has been in my thoughts and prayers all week.
And with that in mind, I wanted to answer what seems to be a simple and often asked question—
“Are you a priest or a monk? Is it ‘Father’ Jack or ‘Brother’ Jack?”
The shorter answer is, “Yes.”
The longer answer is a little more complicated.
I’m a professed member of the Lindisfarne Community, an international, independent, ecumenical religious community with professed members in Indonesia, the UK, and the US. We’re a new (or “secular”) monastic community in the Anglo-Celtic tradition. A friend of the community described us as, “A religious order with apostolic succession.”
And that apostolic succession is the part that trips up some people. For a lot of people, bishops and priests are understood from the Roman Catholic tradition. But there are a different streams of Christianity that all claim apostolic succession, most notably are the Eastern Orthodox and Anglican traditions. For those who don’t understand apostolic succession it’s a lot like a family tree. It traces the current bishops back through history telling the story of their tradition. For the Lindisfarne Community, there are seventeen lines—roots of the family tree—that tie us to the ancient church. I won’t reproduce this ancient tree here, but if you’re interested, please check out the link on our community website. In addition to the information we have on our community website, we’re also included in the Holy Russian Orthodox Synod, the Old Catholic Succession, the Catholic-Patriarchate of Assyria, the the Apostolic Succession of the Metropolitan-Archbishops of Albania, the Greek Melkite Patriarchate of Antioch, the Armenian Catholicate-Patriarchate of Cilicia, the Patriarchate of Moscow, and many others.
It’s into this very wide stream of Christendom that I was ordained, first as a deacon and then as a priest. It’s very humbling and I’m the least of my sisters and brothers (1 Timothy 1:15, Ephesians 3:8).
So, yes, on the one hand, it’s Father Jack+.
But, on the other hand, I prefer Brother. Too often, when people discover one’s a priest, they often look to the priest for answers. They want the priest to “lead” them. I prefer to be seen, not as a leader or as someone in any kind of authority, but as a fellow traveler in The Way. I prefer us to travel together, learning and growing with each other. Listening to each other, offering love, prayer, and support.
So, come, let’s walk together as brothers and sisters in The Way. Let’s share our experiences with each other. Let’s share our sorrows and joys, our ups and downs. For it’s together that we truly grow. My hope and prayer is that our voices will help all of us discover The Voice that speaks in the Sacred Silence within all things.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC