Community of Jesus
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Today, approximately 225 professed members, together with another fifty children and young people live as households in thirty privately owned, multifamily homes that surround the church and the guesthouse. This also includes the twenty-five celibate brothers living in "Zion Friary" and the sixty celibate sisters living in "Bethany Convent." Altogether, the Community of Jesus consists of almost 275 people, from many walks of life and various church backgrounds—including Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Congregational, Baptist, Lutheran, Anglican, Methodist, Pentecostal, and Roman Catholic.
The origins of the Community of Jesus can be traced back to the first meeting of two Episcopal laywomen, Cay Andersen and Judy Sorensen, who met in 1958 at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Orleans. The two women began a ministry of prayer and Bible study, meeting in the living room of what was then Rock Harbor Manor, a bed and breakfast run by Andersen and her husband, overlooking Cape Cod Bay. In the early 1960s, Cay and Judy were invited to lead retreats in churches throughout New England. The Community of Jesus as was incorporated under Massachusetts state law in 1970. Rock Harbor Manor was renovated and converted into a retreat house, called "Bethany".
For a period of time beginning in 1973, three sisters from the community sang Gregorian chant at morning services at the Heydon Chapel in Sandys, Bermuda. Basil B. Elmer, a prominent member of the Community of Jesus and husband of Isabel Lincoln, great-granddaughter of William Rockefeller, was a board member of the Heydon Trust from 1975 to 1985, and Chairman until he stepped down in 2006. One of their daughters became a nun in the Community of Jesus. The sisters returned to Massachusetts sometime prior to 2012.
Around 1973, Andersen became involved in promoting the "Diet, Discipline, and Discipleship" ("3D") weight loss program, which seemed to focus on sin and guilt as a way to lose weight.
The Episcopal bishop of Massachusetts declined to designate the group an Episcopal community. A study commissioned by the Boston Presbytery found "...evidence that involvement with and within the Community of Jesus [was] incompatible with Presbyterian commitments of doctrine and order."
Andersen died in 1988; Sorensen in 2009. According to Mary Ann Bragg of The Barnstable Patriot, per town assessment records, "...[t]he church currently owns $20 million in real estate in Orleans..." Paraclete Press is the publishing arm of the Community of Jesus.
Rule of Life
The Rule took its present shape in 2008 after final adoption by a vote of the Chapter (which is composed of the solemnly professed members). Through that time, and in order to reflect more faithfully the Community’s own Benedictine ethos, counsel and suggestions also were received from various scholars, monastic superiors, canon lawyers and others.
Like all monastic rules, The Rule of Life of the Community of Jesus is a written distillation of those values and ideas that best describe the purpose for and practice of the Community of Jesus’ life together. Its content is drawn from and inspired by Scripture, church tradition, the Rule of St. Benedict, and the founding principles and charisms of the Community of Jesus expressed in its founding and in its ongoing evolution. Its purpose is to prescribe a standard of spiritual wisdom for community living, and to be a basic guide for those wishing to commit themselves to the monastic life as it is pursued in the Community of Jesus.
Following a prologue, the Rule of Life is divided into two major sections, each of which has two parts. Section I sets forth the fundamental spiritual principles upon which the Community of Jesus was founded and which continue to give the community its definition. These are presented in Parts A and B under the headings of “Vocation” (God’s call) and “Profession” (our response). Section II applies those principles to the procedures for membership and decision-making in the community.
Church of the Transfiguration
Constructed of Minnesota limestone, and designed by William Rawn Associates of Boston, the Church of the Transfiguration is a contemporary expression of an ancient 4th century basilica style of architecture, featuring a long rectangular nave, a rounded apse at the east end, narrow side aisles, a peaked timber roof, and interior columns and arches along the side aisles.
The interior of the Church is filled with hand-crafted mosaic and frescoes painted by Silvestro Pistolesi of Florence, as well as glass, and stone artwork. The bronze doors are by Romolo Del Deo. Artists contributing to the Church of the Transfiguration include: Daphné Du Barry Gabriele Wilpers and Régis Demange
E. M. Skinner Organ
Built by Nelson Barden & Associates of Boston, MA, the organ at the Church of the Transfiguration is a restoration and expansion of components from a number of twentieth-century organs of the Ernest M. Skinner Organ Company. When completed, it will include 150 ranks and 12,500 pipes, making it one of the six largest organs in the country, and in the top ten largest in the world. The pipe organ’s location allows its sounds to be specifically directed so as to accompany the various liturgical actions taking place on the floor. Currently, the organ includes the Great, Swell, Choir, Processional, Echo, and Pedal Divisions consisting of 110 ranks. The main part of the organ is located at the east end of the Church in three sections. The Great and Choir Divisions of the organ are on the north side, the Swell Division on the south. The Processional Division of the organ is located one hundred feet away at the west end of the nave, and includes stops such as Principal Diapason, Tuba Major, Tuba Mirabilis, and the Trumpet Militaire.
Elements Theatre Company
Elements Theatre Company was founded in 1992, by several members of the Community of Jesus. They perform year-round on Cape Cod, as well as touring nationally and internationally. Recent tours have included performances at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center (New York), The New School for Drama (New York), 92nd Street Y (New York), East 13th Street Theatre, home of Classic Stage Company (New York), St. Malachy's - The Actor's Chapel (New York), Chicago Theological Seminary (New York), Chicago Public Library, Dominican University (River Forest, IL), and the Cathedral of St. Christopher in Barga, Italy.
Recent performances include Talking Heads by Alan Bennett, God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Pillars of the Community by Henrik Ibsen, The Dining Room by A.R. Gurney, The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov, The Doorway by Phyllis Tickle, The Trial of Jesus by John Masefield, and Rumors by Neil Simon. Recent Shakespeare performances include, Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Julius Caesar.
Mount Tabor: Ecumenical Centre for Art and Spirituality
One of the most recent projects of the Community of Jesus has been the creation of the Mount Tabor Ecumenical Centre for Art and Spirituality in Italy. The Mount Tabor Centre for Art and Spirituality is an international organization facilitating ecumenical dialogue through educational symposia, visual and performing arts, spiritual retreats and exhibitions of contemporary sacred art. Bridging cultural, ecclesial and national boundaries, the Mount Tabor Centre provides opportunities for reflection and discussion about faith and creativity, contemplation and communion, liturgy and beauty. As the Spirit inspires the contemporary voices of today’s Christian artists, musicians and authors, Mount Tabor provides venues for encouragement and fellowship. Via Sacra, home of the Mount Tabor Ecumenical Centre in Barga, Italy, provides a context for reflection and discussion about faith and creativity, contemplation and communication, liturgy and beauty. The Centre also has an office and gallery in Orleans, Massachusetts, Cape Cod.
The Community of Jesus has been the subject of decades of controversy. They were included in the book "Churches That Abuse" by Ron Enroth in 1990. In 1993 these allegations were explored on the Chronicle News Magazine which aired on Channel 5 in Boston, Massachusetts. Controversy surrounding alleged abuse further emerged through reporting of a class-action suit connected to a school that had ties to the Community of Jesus. In February 2020, a Canadian court cited the influence of the Community of Jesus in the abuse of students. In the case opinion, Judge Janet Leiper of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice wrote: “I have concluded that the evidence of maltreatment and the varieties of abuse perpetrated on students’ bodies and minds in the name of the (Community of Jesus) values of submission and obedience was class-wide and decades-wide.”
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