A theological intern from the Edmonton diocese has been chosen to join the Community of Saint Anselm at Lambeth Palace in London.
This fall Melissa Ritz, a Wycliffe College graduate with a Master of Divinity Degree, will join 15 residential members from different countries and denominations and 20 non-residential members, who live and work in the London area, at Lambeth.
Since 2015, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has been inviting Christians aged 20-35 to “spend a year in God’s time” living, praying, studying and serving together.
Residents of the community named for St. Anselm, a Benedictine monk and scholar, abide by a Rule of Life centered on a commitment to learning from Jesus, being set apart, silence, prayer, study, unity, worship, serving with compassion, trust and sacrifice; learning together how every aspect of daily life can be Jesus-shaped.
“The Rule of Benedict talks about stability. I’m looking forward to the stability that comes with figuring out who I am and being able to take that with me into the world,” said Ritz. “I’m introverted and shy and have a tendency to be a hermit so I’m looking forward to spending time with God and others with a common purpose.”
In addition to daily prayer, study and worship, community members are responsible for chores: cooking, cleaning and laundry, and helping local charities serve the poor.
One of the rules calls for community members to limit their use of electronic devices. “That might be hard to get used,” she said. “But in some ways I think it will be a relief to leave my phone and computer behind in my room.”
Ritz was raised in the parish of St. Matthias where her mother Dawn serves as a lay reader. Between her first and second year at Wycliffe she worked as a theological intern at Good Shepherd, Edmonton. Most recently she has been serving with the parish of Christ Church, both as an intern and office administrator.
It was during her third year of study that Ritz said she first learned of the community of St. Anselm. “In class we watched videos produced by the community and I was immediately drawn to it. I couldn’t think of anything else that whole day,” she said.
“I’m very passionate about liturgy and one of the things I miss most about living at Wycliffe is being involved with planning and leading daily prayer,” said Ritz, who also enjoys reading (G.K. Chesterton is a favourite author), teaching and especially preaching.
After submitting her application to St. Anselm, she went into Christ Church early one morning to be interviewed via Skype by the dean of the community and one other staff member. She is expected to arrive at Lambeth Palace on September 7 and will reside there for 10 months. Ritz says she is apprehensive about not being able to spend Christmas with her sister and mother. “My dad died five years ago and it will be different not being with them,” she said.
Members of St. Anselm are asked to make a sacrificial gift to help with program costs which are estimated to be $28,000 per resident. Last week, Ritz hosted “Did God really say...?” an enlightening and entertaining pub theology fundraising event at Christ Church Parish Hall. Occupying a panel with Dr. Stephen Martin, associate professor of theology at The King’s University, and the Rev. David Tiessen, rector of St. Matthias, Edmonton, Ritz gave thoughtful responses to questions like: Do you have to be Christian to go to heaven? Am I a bad Christian if I don’t believe in the Creed? Does individual consciousness continue to exist after death? Why is violence perpetrated in Jesus’ name? Why does God allow bad things to happen? Is secularism ruining society?
One audience member was curious to know what Ritz is most looking forward to next year.
“Benedict encourages finding community and developing your self in God that endures wherever you go,” she responded. “I’m terrified to begin this journey, but I look forward to where God takes me next.”