Chemin Neuf Community
|Chemin Neuf Community|
The Chemin Neuf Community (French: Communauté du Chemin Neuf) is a Catholic community with an Ecumenical vocation. Formed from a charismatic prayer group in 1973, it has 2,000 permanent members in 30 countries, and 12,000 people serving in the community missions. Its main founder is the Jesuit father, Laurent Fabre[fr].
The community takes its name from the first meeting place, based in Lyon, 49 Montée du Chemin-Neuf[fr]. A product of the Charismatic Renewal, the community claims to belong equally to an Ignatian spirituality. It brings together priests, lay celibates (men and women) as well as non-celibates and couples with or without children.
The community directs its actions around the principle of unity: unity of Christians (ecumenism), unity of men (notably between different cultures and nations), unity of couples and of families.
Pentecostalism, a new branch of Christianity focusing on the welcoming of the Holy Spirit, evolved in the USA after 1900 (In Topeka and then in Azusa Street Revival, Los Angeles). Its spectacular manifestations (speaking in tongues, prophecy, healings, etc.) rapidly provoked rejection from other churches (Protestant or Catholic). It was only in the 1960s that the traditional Protestant churches (Evangelical, Methodist, Episcopalian) began to integrate these new practices into their prayer life. In 1967, some Catholic students from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, during the course of a bible study week-end, received the Baptism in the holy spirit. After this experience, prayer groups and communities began to expand in the Catholic church in the USA and throughout the rest of the world.
The community was named after the first meeting in Lyon, Montée du Chemin Neuf (meaning "going up the new road"). It was founded in the Charismatic Renewal and remains heavily marked by Ignatian spirituality. The community focuses its action on the principle of unity: unity of Christians, unity of men, unity of couples and families. It regularly organises retreats for couples, families and / or engaged couples ("Cana"), for divorcees ("Cana Espérance"), for divorcees who have remarried ("Cana Samarie"), an international evangelization (Net for God / Fraternité Œcuménique Internationale (FOI)), as well as an evangelization in the neighbourhood (evangelization in the street, the Alpha course), sessions for young people, theological, philosophical and artistic training, and retreats following the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola.
In 1971, the Jesuit Laurent Fabre[fr], seminarist at the time, met Mike Cawdrey, an American Jesuit student who was familiar with the American Charismatic Renewal, at the Diocesan Seminary in Lyon. He convinced him, together with Bertrand Lepesant (who was later to become the founder of the Communauté du Puits de Jacob[fr]) to spend two days in prayer asking for the presence of the Holy Spirit in Le Touvet. Two young American Protestants, just back from Taizé and about to leave for a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, were also invited. At the end of this week-end, the two French men received the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. After this experience, they founded a charismatic prayer group located in Montée du Chemin-Neuf[fr] · .
In the summer of 1973, Laurent Fabre, accompanied by Bertrand Lepesant, left for the United States to meet with American Charismatics. On their return, they organised a week-end attended by sixty people; seven of them celibates, four men and three women between 22 and 32 years of age, from amongst whom Laurent Fabre decided to form a life-long community. In the beginning, they favoured a name taken from the Bible, but the members of the new foundation quickly realised that in the eyes of their visitors, due to their geographical location they known as the “Chemin Neuf”. Couples quickly joined this community which added to the mix of men and women, the mix between couples and consecrated celibates. Apart from Laurent Fabre, this first community also included Jacqueline Coutellier, who had been thinking about joining the Carmelites but who has since been committed to the life of the Chemin Neuf · .
By September 1978, the Chemin Neuf had 30 adult members, living in private homes or in the three community houses at that time (two in Lyon and one in Beaujolais): about twenty children lived in the community without being part of it.
The community is composed of lay and religious persons from all Christian denominations: Catholic, Anglican, Reformed, Orthodox. In 1984, it was recognised by Cardinal Alexandre Renard, and declared a Public association of the faithful by Cardinal Albert Decourtray, Archbishop of Lyon. This canonical status allowed it to teach the Christian doctrine on behalf of the Catholic Church and to promote public worship. From a civil point of view, the community was recognised as a religious congregation by a decree from the Prime Minister of France, on 23 July 1993.
In France, the community has several branches located in Lyon, Anse (Rhône), Soleymieu (Isère), Hautecombe (Savoie), Le Plantay (Abbey Notre-Dame-des-Dombes, Ain), Sablonceaux (Charente-Maritime), Tigery (Essonne), Chartres (Eure-et-Loir), Bouvines (Nord), Marseille (Bouches-du-Rhône), Levallois (Hauts-de-Seine), Paris, Villeurbanne (Rhône), Lucé-Mainvilliers (Eure-et-Loir), Lille (Nord), Reims (Marne), Sophia-Antipolis (Alpes-Maritimes), Angers (Maine-et-Loire). The community is also present in Belgium, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Canada, Chad, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Libya, Madagascar, Martinique, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Poland, Réunion, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
In 2014, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, invited young adults from around the world to join the Community of St Anselm, a Jesus-centered community of prayer facilitated by the Chemin Neuf for one year. Ruth Gledhill of Christian Today wrote that "The year-long programme will include prayer, study, practical service and community life. Members will live a spiritual discipline compared to that of medieval monks, drawing closer to God through a daily rhythm of silence, study and prayer. At the same time they will also be immersed in the modern challenges of the global 21st century church, witnessing to the power of a pared-back disciplined faith in managing the demanding business of contemporary high-tech life.".
In the 1990s, a small number of former community members accused it of being a cult practising brainwashing and proselytism. The French anti-cult association Centre contre les manipulations mentales also included the community in its Dictionary of Cults. Jérôme Dupré-Latour, a priest of the Archdiocese of Lyon, noted some cultic deviances, including strict obedience and the authoritarian exercise of power. Archbishop Jean Balland, Father Jean Vernette, and founder Father Laurent Fabre denied these accusations. None of the accusations were proved in court.
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