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
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,
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
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
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
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.]