An inspirational talk in Chester

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riar Des Alban � gave an inspiring talk to �Called To Serve'Franciscan friar Desmond Alban (pictured) spoke at 'Called To Serve' - an event organised for those who are thinking of developing their faith into formal Christian ministry. Each year this event invites those who feel called to ministry to hear from those already serving God as Priests, Readers, Pastoral Workers, members of the Church Army or members of religious orders.

Brother Des, who lives at The Friary of Saint Francis, Alnmouth, Northumberland, told those at the recent ‘Called to Serve’ in Chester Cathedral that the life of monks, nuns, brothers and sisters had been described by Archbishop George Carey as ‘the best kept secret in the Church of England’.
 
In a three-minute lightning tour of Christian history Des explained how the Holy Spirit had inspired new forms of ‘religious life’ at various times over the centuries, responding to needs and dreams in church and society. One such instance was the great expansion of Franciscan and Dominican friars and sisters across Europe in the 13th Century but another was the much later rediscovery of these forms of life in the Church of England.

Des said: “Right now it is exciting to see the Holy Spirit leading many people into radical fresh expressions of community, living in what has been termed New Monasticism. Just as the older monastic communities continued their work and witness alongside the new friars in the past, so the more traditional patterns of religious life continue and adapt.” 

The 47-year-old friar acknowledged that many of the older communities for both men and women are now very small, but others continue to attract new members and to discover new work. As Novice Guardian he currently has oversight for eight novices in his community in the UK, but he also keeps quite busy responding to young men enquiring about the life – and just like Anglican life in general, there is a real flourishing in the provinces south of the equator.  

Saint Francis of Assisi never intended to found a religious order but rather was bowled over by a desire to live the Gospel life and it was his joyful example that became a magnetic attraction to many thousands of men and women to follow Christ in the same way.

“That counter-cultural desire to live the Gospel for real is what has always drawn people to this life of voluntary poverty, chastity and obedience to God,” added Des.

At the moment, Des lives in a beautiful house on the Northumbrian coast where many guests come seeking to deepen their relationship to God and to share in the life of the brothers. His community has two other such ‘larger’ houses in the Worcestershire and Dorset countryside.  But like other religious, many Franciscans also live in smaller urban houses, seeking especially to share in the lives of those who are poor and marginalised. A desire to ‘welcome the stranger’ – especially  those who come to the UK as asylum seekers and who the brothers serve in East London and Leeds – is emerging as a call from God to Franciscans at this time.