"Celebrating 30 years of God's faithfulness to us"
| Introduction | Beginnings | Living Single for the Lord | Our Call & Mission | Reaching Out to the Youth of Today | Brotherhood Households
"In response to the exceeding greatness of the gift of God, we dedicate ourselves to loving Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and consecrate our lives to his service."   - from the Covenant of The Servants of the Word
This year marks the 30th anniversary of The Servants of the Word. We trace our roots to the late 60s and early 70s -- times that, while turbulent, saw God acting in a powerful way.  Into those times were born the charismatic renewal and the covenant community movement. To this day, most of our brothers live and serve in Christian communities comprised of families and single men and women sharing a common way of life. We presently number more than 60 men serving in countries around the world. While the majority of our brothers are from the United States, we also have brothers from Scotland, England, Fiji, Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Austria, Belgium, France, and the Philippines. 

In response to the exceeding generosity of God, we have dedicated our lives to living "single for the Lord", to a way of life that keeps possessions to that minimum required to serve and to sharing a common life together as "brothers".  Of course, making these commitments -- to remain unmarried, to simplicity, to community -- is not the only way to live a dedicated Christian life.  Yet this is a path that has been joyfully followed by thousands of faithful Christian men and women over the centuries. By choosing this way of life, or rather, being chosen by God for it, we want to express our gratitude to God for the grace and mercy we have received in Christ and to consecrate our lives to Him with all that we have, ourselves.  One of our brothers wrote a song called, God Alone which aptly expresses the joy and gratitude we wish to express with our lives: "Oh my soul, claim nothing as your own, for you there is God, and God alone." 

International and Ecumenical

The Servants of the Word is part of a larger network of lay renewal communities known as The Sword of the Spirit.  Comprised primarily of families, The Sword of the Spirit has more than 10,000 members in 55 cities in 20 countries. Servants of the Word work in many of these places: Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Detroit, and East Lansing, Michigan; London and Oxford, England; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Manila, Philippines; and Monterrey, Mexico. 

In addition to being international, The Servants of the Word is also ecumenical.  Although our origins are in the Catholic charismatic renewal and many of our brothers are Roman Catholic, we now include men of many other Christian traditions, including Lutheran, Free Church, Presbyterian and Anglican/Episcopalian.  We each live in full communion with our respective tradition, while living together as a sign of Christian unity, that "the world might believe" (John 17:21). 

Our Beginnings

Our brotherhood was founded in 1971 by Stephen B. Clark, a philosopher, Scripture scholar and leader in the Curisillo Movement and Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church.  In addition to teaching and writing, Steve has worked with covenant communities world-wide and is a leader of The Sword of the Spirit, the international ecumenical community of communities we belong to as a brotherhood. 

In August 1971, a group of eight men who had a powerful experience of the Holy Spirit through the charismatic renewal, and were members together of The Word of God, a renewal community in Ann Arbor, took a 10-day retreat in Dexter, Michigan.  Previously, they had spent a special period of time fasting, praying and talking together about giving themselves to God in a special way.  They studied the example of the great heroes of the faith, Francis of Assisi, Augustine, Basil and Benedict and the monastic ideals that they lives: poverty, chastity, obedience and community.  Together they set about putting together a set of ideals which they sought to live by and formulated these ideals into a written "covenant".  At the end of the retreat, they each made a temporary commitment to live single for the Lord.  The Servants of the Word was born.

Two and a half years later, in January 1974, five of the original group of eight deepened this commitment while on retreat at the Trappist monastery of Genesee, in western New York state. (See right photo of shed where the first lifelong commitments were made.) During that retreat, they voluntarily made a promise to remain single for the Lord for the remainder of their lives and to live together a common life in community.  The lifelong nature of the commitment greatly strengthened the fledging brotherhood and guaranteed it stability to go forward. 

Our Nature and Call

One year later, in 1975, the young brotherhood adopted a name: The Servants of the Word.  Our name reflects the call that we believe God has given us, a call to be servants, servants of the Word of God, Jesus Christ.  In living a life consecrated to our Lord, our goal is to see that more and more people hear the message of salvation, respond to it and find new life in Him.  As his servants, we dedicate our time, energy and resources to support the preaching of the Gospel and the building up of God's people, especially those the Lord has joined us to in The Sword of the Spirit communities. 

The "covenant" penned during those early days of 1971, grew and matured with the years.  Our covenant is more than a rule of life.  It is a spiritual guide that provides the main outlines of our call, that shapes our life and allows us to live it in one spirit.  At the heart of that call is the free will offering of our lives to God.  As disciples of Jesus Christ, we seek to be a "living sacrifice" through a daily "death to self": turning away from the unnecessary things of this world, putting away selfish ambition and empty desire so that we might respond freely and whole-heartedly to the Lord.  Our heart's desire is to make prayer and love of God first in our lives and to live and serve as a witness to the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Matthew 19:12).  We seek that holiness which comes from Him, for the pur of heart will see God. 

In giving up marriage, we seek to imitate Christ who did not marry for the sake of the Kingdom.  While we highly esteem married life and actively participate together with families in church and community settings, we have decided not to marry so that the Lord might be our only treasure, our portion, our joy.  Remaining single allows us to be freer from worldly affairs (cf. 1 Cor. 7:32-35) and available to serve the Lord and advance His Kingdom.  Consecrated celibacy, a gift of grace, brings peace and joy. 

So that our time and resources might be available for the Lord's service, and so that our hearts remain fixed on Him, our life also includes an ideal of simplicity, in possessing nothing on our own but rather holding all things in common, we seek to imitate His humility and his single-hearted devotion to the Father.  He is the one thing necessary, the source of true riches. 

[Tony O'Neill, a Servant of the Word brother from Glasgow, Scotland, who is currently a teacher and youth leader in Detroit, has written a dissertation on the early beginnings of our brotherhood.  Click here to see an excerpt.] 

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