Constitution

  1. Name

The Society of the Holy Trinity (SoHT)

  1. Objects and Purpose of the Community

The Society of the Holy Trinity is an Anglican order and movement of new monastic communities in urban areas that are intensifying people’s discipleship in the service of the mission of the Church in the context of the Kingdom of God

  1. What are your charisms, ethos or rule of life.

See the separate Rhythm of Life document

  1. Membership

4.1. Constituent Communities

4.1.1 In order for the Society of the Holy Trinity to be constituent three local communities have to have taken the seasonal vows and elected a Prior or leader and, alongside the Prior, elected a member from their community to the UK Chapter of the Society of the Holy Trinity.

4.1.2  The Chapter of the Society of the Holy Trinity shall consist of the elected Prior and one elected professed member from each local new monastic community and recognised Pioneers setting up new communities.

4.1.3 Expectations of members and constituent communities.

Member communities shall:

  • Abide by the Constitution
  • Adopt the Rhythm of Life of the Society of the Holy Trinity
  • Pray regularly for the Society and its constituent member communities
  • Offer where possible practical support to constituent member communities to encourage one another
  • Commit to 6-monthly meetings of the UK Chapter.

4.1.4  New Communities often get birthed out of a founder, whether these founders may be lay or ordained, and begin as either a local initiative or as an intention of a particular parish, deanery or diocese. In such situations these ‘pioneers’ will need to be formally recognised and included in the Society of the Holy Trinity.

Criteria for becoming a recognised pioneer:

  • Actively begun the process of building a new monastic community beginning with invitation to seek new participants.
  • If beginning an ecumenical community this will need to have a distinctive Anglican element to this identity, with the beginnings of seeking to have some connection to the local parish/deanery/diocese.
  • Evidence that they have made connections with the local Anglican context which may include Parish Priest, Archdeacon, Bishop, Diocesan Missioner or Fresh Expressions Enabler.
  • Has formerly met a member of the Chapter (Prior or elected member) and ideally been in communication with the elected Guardian of the Society.
  • When convened, status of being a recognised pioneer to be discussed and confirmed by the Chapter.

4.1.5 New Communities will need to have at least six members (made to the seasonal vows) to be recognised as a local new monastic community, and would need to be committed to developing and owning the Rhythm of Life of the Society and its Constitution. It is expected that a new community will discern and prepare for around a year before making their first profession to the seasonal vows, and where necessary this should also allow for others to make promises consistent with the different spaces of belonging as below.

4.1.6. Every two years, there should be a gathering of the Society open to all those involved in the various communities or pioneers.

4.2 Membership – Individuals

In each community it is envisaged that there will be different spaces of belonging:

4.2.1 Pioneers

As stated earlier, this is the category for those seeking to found new monastic communities in a new context who are either lay or ordained leaders.

4.2.2 Associates

Those who are wanting to support the Society but live too far away to fully participate in a community, or who have formally begun training for ministry in the Church and unable to participate locally at the moment. Such Associates will have a formal relationship with a particular constituent community.

 4.2.3 Companions

Those who do not identify themselves as being Christian or who have not yet committed to follow the way of Jesus, and who may have not experienced any form of Christian initiation. In the Anglican tradition, Christian initiation includes baptised and confirmation.  In this space those involved are committing to explore the Christian faith by engaging with the community and attending dialogue and other opportunities.  When ready, Companions will be invited to explore making a commitment to being a follower of Jesus through baptism and/or confirmation (if within the Anglican tradition or equivalent if in an ecumenical community), and then will be invited to become a participant of the community.

4.2.4 Participants

Those who would describe themselves as Christian and followers of the Christian Faith.  This space is for those who have been initiated into the Christian faith who are not yet ready to make commitments to the Seasonal Vows, but ready to commit to regularly attend the Worship, Mission and Community life and activities of the Community.  New participants will undergo a period of discernment, guided by each local community, but not normally shorter than 6 months and normally a year before making seasonal vows.

Participants are expected to make a yearly commitment at the Annual Commitment Service. Participants are encouraged not to remain in this space for more than a year to two years, as it is also a space to discern whether they feel called to a New Monastic form of Christian discipleship.

4.2.5 Professed

Those who are Christian and are committing to the ROL Seasonal Vows for the next year, where they will be seeking to engage with this ROL. See the seasonal vows.

4.2.6 Seasonal Vows & Promises

In accordance with the published guidance completed by the Advisory Council of Religious Communities and Diocesan Bishops of the Church of England College of Bishops, the meaning of seasonal vows and promises is important.

Seasonal vows, are important commitments made to God by individuals and communities before a Bishop or a Bishop’s representative and should not be made lightly or without due discernment.  Seasonal vows are made for a set period of time, usually for a year but could be up to 3 years depending on the practice of the particular constituent new monastic community, which will reflect a commitment to the disciplines and charisms of the Society, (see the Rhythm of Life document).  Seasonal vows are made by those of the Professed space of belonging. Seasonal vows are made in a Rhythm of Life Commitment Service usually once a year again depending on the practice of the constituent new monastic community.

Promises of the Society, are more general commitments made regarding the other spaces of belonging other than the professed space.  Again these are expected to be included into the Rhythm of Life Service, but where those entering the Companion space can make such commitments before representatives of the local community outside of the regular Rhythm of Life Service.

  1. Movement of people between communities

5.1 Movement of the members between constituent communities: if members are (due to relocation) seeking to transfer between communities, the Prior of the receiving community will enter into a period of discernment with that person before they may make vows or promises in the new community. The Prior may also consult the Bishop Visitor concerning this.

5.2 Membership to a new constituent community will be made by taking seasonal vows or promises relating to the different spaces of belonging before the Diocesan Bishop or an appointee thereof.

  1. Renewal of vows

6.1 It is expected that each member of a constituent community will renew their vows seasonally and have a time to consider this before renewal. However, the Prior from time to time may need to encourage further discernment in a member regarding their spirit of engagement with the Rhythm of life, and in exceptional circumstances, in consultation with, and in the presence of the Bishop Visitor, or someone the Bishop Visitor has appointed in their stead, may refuse to allow a member to renew their vows for a time, or permanently.

6.2 Each constituent community will keep a register of members, which will also be kept by the Society of the Holy Trinity.

  1. Amendments to the Rhythm of Life

After a period of two years each constituent community will have a period of discernment discussing possible alterations to the Rhythm of Life (ROL), these suggestions will be shared amongst the constituent communities and discussed before final suggestions from each (in the light of one another’s concerns) are brought to the Chapter of the Society of the Holy Trinity and voted upon. Each community will then be sent an amended Rule that reflects these changes to their common life. It should be noted that such changes will need to prayerfully discerned and not rushed.

  1. Symbols: contextually determined

Given that each local new monastic community will be contextualised, it is envisaged that each will have different symbols reflecting their different names and stories. There is no plan for having a dedicated symbol for the Society of the Holy Trinity, other than those who have made a profession to the seasonal vows can use the SoHT as a title.

  1. Termination of membership

The Society of the Holy Trinity will follow the wisdom and guidance of the Handbook for the Religious Life for Acknowledged Religious Communities regarding the ending of participating in a local constituent new monastic community. Membership of the Society is contingent on participation as a pioneer or as a member of one of the constituent new monastic communities.

9.1 Making good endings

Attention will be maintained around making good endings, either to celebrate the ending of times of commitments, or where people have decided to move on.  Doing this well is crucial to the health of all forms of Christian community.

9.2. Dealing with Complaints and Conflict

Conflict is an inevitable occurrence in all forms of Christian Community, so doing conflict well is important.  The Society will take all conflict seriously, where local communities and the Society more widely will use the guidance of the Handbook for the Religious Life to assist in this endeavour.   Where there real breakdown of relationships, then the Bishop Visitor and Guardian of the Society can be drawn into a local situation to seek conflict resolution, restitution and healing when required.

  1. Meetings of the Society

10.1 Constituent Community Councils

Each local new monastic community will have its own ‘Community Council’ which will differ in form and legality depending on how the local expression of the community is expressed. These ‘Community Council’s’ is the decision-making body of each local community, made up of those who are participants or professed. Community Councils should meet no less than twice a year. The Prior or Dean can call the meetings. Decisions should be made by the Community Council by a simple majority of voting members, except in a dispute, where the Prior may make the final decision. Decisions should be recorded. In elections, Community Council Meetings should be quorate which will be 40% of those who are in the Professed or Participant spaces of belonging. Such meetings should ensure that a notice period of at least one week is made and communicated before a Community Council is held.  In the event of the need for an urgent ‘Extra-Ordinary Community Council Meeting’, this will require the consent of 60% to meet urgently, ideally confirmed by email communications that at least 60% agree to such an extra-ordinary meeting.

10.2 Chapter Meetings of the Society
The Chapter of the Society of the Holy Trinity shall meet at least twice a year. The elected Guardian, Chair of the Chapter shall have power to convene the meetings. It is expedient for the meetings to take place at a mutually convenient place, evening meetings shall last no longer than three hours and there should beone overnight meeting per year. The Guardian may extend the meeting time in extraordinary circumstances by agreement of the majority of Chapter present. Meetings shall be carried out in an environment of prayer. Decisions will be made by the Chapter by a simple majority, except in a dispute, where the Guardian will make the final decision. Decisions should be recorded.

It is anticipated that the Bishop Visitor will attend an element of the overnight meeting once a year.

  1. Leadership

11.1 Chapter:

11.1.1 Guardian

It is proposed that the Guardian of the Society is elected from the Priors who are also elected to the Chapter of the Society.  It is further proposed that the Guardian be elected for a term of at least 3 years, which can be extended but will need re-election of the Chapter.

The role is to act as a Guardian to the Constitution and Rhythm of Life of the Society, and to assist in the strategic support, encouragement, development and growth of constituent new monastic communities, and the planting and developing of new ones through the support of local recognised pioneers.  The role holder will act as a representative to the wider church, and will be an important voice of wisdom and encouragement, who with the Episcopal Visitor, provide oversight for the Society.

The role will be held in keeping as that specified for the Leader of Acknowledged Religious Communities in the Handbook of the Religious Life.

11.1.2 Secretary

The Secretary for the Society will be elected or co-opted onto the Chapter to assist in the communication and administration of the Society. This role will include the formulation of Agendas, Minutes and reports.  The Secretary will work closely with the Guardian in the planning and administration of Chapter meetings and associated accommodation issues when required. It is proposed that the role holder commit to a term of 3 years to be reviewed and possibly extended at the end of this term of office.

11.1.3 Elected members

The elected member from each constituent community, must be a member of their local Community Council, that is those who have made seasonal vows to the Rhythm of Life. This election is for a period of 3 years. In the event that an elected member has to step down from this role, there will need to be a local election where a replacement will be sought to ideally serve a term of around 3 years.

11.2 Constituent Communities:-

11.2.1 Prior

The Prior is elected from members of each constituent Community Councils (that is those who have taken vows or made promises) for a period of 3 years. The Prior is to be a professed member of the community or a recognised pioneer. The Prior may choose the sub-Prior or the community may also elect the sub-Prior as locally determined. The Chapter of the Society of the Holy Trinity elects from within itself a Guardian to oversee the Society and represent the society to the wider church.

11.2.2 Sub-Prior

The Sub-Prior/s is/are the Prior’s deputy/ies and responsible for overseeing the community when the Prior is away. The Sub-Prior is/are part of the leading group and plays an important part of overseeing the welfare of the community in its worship, mission and community life, and particularly for those in the different spaces of belonging, who have made various commitments and promises for the year ahead.  It is expected that the Sub-Prior be a professed member of the community or a recognised pioneer.

11.2.3 Dean

Individual that chairs the local Community Councils, ensuring administration of meetings, agendas, and meetings.

  • Acts as Lay chair for the Community Council’s working closely with the Prior and Sub-Prior, and part of the leading group.
  • When unable to Chair meetings, then this can be completed by Prior or Sub-Prior.
  • Plan and ensure that Community Councils happen with reliability, ensuring that the agenda includes elements from the chapter of those who have made professions, and where agenda points brought by participants are also included.
  • Ensuring that accurate minutes and action points are completed.
  • Assist in the organisational development of the community, and its participation in the Parish/Deanery/Diocese as appropriate
  • Together with the Sub-Prior: Assisting the Prior in maintaining, developing and administrating of appropriate means of religious discipline to enable and encourage Ordinary Members’ adherence to the Community’s Rhythm of Life.

11.2.4 Cellarer

This person is responsible for all the material things in the community not including finance. They are assisted by others if this role incorporates elements of being the Treasurer. This role has not worked so well in the last year, but I think is still needed.

11.2.5 Refectarian

This person is responsible for making sure adequate planning for community meals concerning the preparing food is kept up to date, and to ensure the kitchen where food is provided is returned into the state it was found in.

11.2.6 Residential Participants/Professed

This role is an opportunity for servant leadership and development or exploration of vocation within the new monastic community and more broadly within the Church.  Such roles will be advertised and have a specific role description where role holders will be expected to give time to various agreed projects which will vary dependent on the context of the community. Such a role is also compatible with the roles of Dean, Sub-Prior and Prior as elected roles on top of the expectations of the residential role.  See locally agreed role description.

11.2.7 Residential Companions

From time to time the Prior or the office holder whose house is being used by the new monastic community for a residential function, may consider it appropriate to use a room in such a house to give an opportunity for someone who was in the companion stage of spiritual reflection/spaces of belonging, as part of the missional exploration of drawing alongside the community to experience the Christian faith in a lived capacity. This will be at the discretion of the House License Holder and specifically not of the Community or Community Council.

11.2.7 Cantors & Musicians to assist in Worship

Many of those involved in the various new monastic communities are drawing on ancient forms of liturgy and forms of chant, whilst others are drawing on more contemporary expressions of music and singing.  Each local community will strive to balance the need for a good standard of worship alongside inclusion and for members of the community to take it in turn to lead various different services.  Where possible it is good to utilise musicians and cantors to not only help lead such more contemplative worship services, but also assist others to develop leadership skills specifically in singing/chanting/music.

11.2.8 Treasurer

Depending on the context of the New Monastic Community, consideration for the role of a Treasurer will need to be considered, particularly if the community is operating as a Charity, Club/Society or Bishops Mission Order. Guidance should be sought from the local Diocese/Archdeacon as to the role description, scope and role of this office which must be locally determined.

12. Appointment of ‘officers’

Job/role descriptions will be drawn up as need arises, agreement by the local Chapter for both role description and appointment and any reviews.

13.Appointment of a Episcopal Visitor

 13.1 Starting out

An important aspect of the governance of the Society of the Holy Trinity is to draw on the support and wisdom of a Bishop Visitor to help grow, develop and sustain the vision and charisms of the society.   It is proposed that Bishop Jonathan Clark, the current Bishop of Croydon be our Episcopal Visitor.  The role of the Episcopal Visitor is explained fully in the Handbook to the Religious Life which will be used as the authoritative text for this role as defined by the Advisory Council of the Church of England.

13.2. Process of Election

It is proposed that on the agenda of the first Chapter meeting that there be an election to appoint the Episcopal Visitor Elected by Chapter (2 from each community) after seeking advice of the Bishop’s Advisory Council on Religious Life.  It is suggested that the role is held for a period of 5 years, renewable by vote in chapter.

13.3 Responsibilities of the Episcopal Visitor

This Society of the Holy Trinity will utilise the Handbook to the Religious life to define the extent and purposes of the role.  It is further noted that the role will not interfere or diminish the accountability of the local new monastic community to the local Diocesan or Suffragen Bishop in accordance with the governance of the Church of England.

It is recommended that the Episcopal Visitor visit or have connection with every local community every two to three years.

  1. Safeguarding

Adoption of existing safeguarding policy as locally determined in the dioceses within which the communities reside and guidance from the Religious Handbook.

  1. Property Finance

n/a at this time

  1. Changes to Constitution & Rhythm of Life

 16.1.1 Starting Out

16.1.1.1 Starting with the Rhythm of Life

Living the Rhythm of Life and our Constitution is the next step for us as both pioneers who are in the process of setting up new monastic communities, and those who are just starting or sustaining communities that have been started.  At this stage it is important we focus on discernment coming out of living the life Jesus is challenging us to live, and then to consider development and amendment of both the Constitution and Rhythm of Life of the Society.   As stated earlier it is suggested that we live the Rhythm of Life document in its current form for two years before careful and prayerful discernment of changing it through the mechanisms of the Chapter seeking to be both ‘bottom up’ and ‘top down’.

16.1.1.2 Starting with the Constitution

The Constitution used in collaboration with the current form of the Handbook of the Religious Life will need from time to time clarification and further detail.  It is suggested that this also be reviewed formally through the Chapter after living with it for two years, and to seek feedback from constituent communities and recognised pioneers.

16.1.2 Process of Changes

16.1.2.1 Changes to the Rhythm of Life

As stated in 7.0 this will be reviewed after two years and will begin with a questionnaire to be compiled by each community to reflect a full review of the ROL as it is expressed. A compilation of these findings and recommendations will be sent to Chapter members in advance of a meeting to help prayerful reflection.  All changes to the Rhythm of Life will require a 2/3rds majority to be approved, where an agreed time for prayerful discernment if unity cannot be established regarding these changes.  Changes in the Rhythm of Life can be instigated through a constituent Community Council (bottom up process) or by members of the Chapter (in a top down process) after careful consultation.  The Chapter will be responsible for setting the time line regarding the first and further reviews of the ROL.  If at any stage a consensus around process or decision making cannot be agreed, the advice of the Episcopal Visitor will be sought.

16.1.2.2 Changes to the Constitution

Formal reviews for the Constitution will be agenda’d as deemed necessary by the Guardian of the Society in consultation with Chapter members.   All changes to the Constitution will needed to be voted on requiring a higher 2/3rds majority to be approved, and again requiring sufficient time for prayerful discernment.   On occasions it be necessary to seek the wisdom of the Episcopal Visitor where there are contentious issues, or a common way forward cannot be agreed.

17.0 Avoidance of Institutionalisation around endings

If after starting the Society of the Holy Trinity, and after it has been established, if there is a future eventuality that there are not at least two constituent communities, or where there are two constituent communities without any possibility of birthing new communities into the life of the Society, the Chapter should have the right to discern whether the Society should be dissolved.  The Society should not exist if there is insufficient life and vision to warrant its continued existence.

 

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