The Community of St Jude

Monday, 1 June, 2009

In 1994, Tom Gillum went with 35 others from Holy Trinity Brompton to revitalise St Stephen's Westbourne Park. The sending and destination were equally clear – to grow a new congregation in the tradition of Holy Trinity Brompton in a redundant building.

Ten years later, Tom had another strong sense of call, but far less idea of what it might grow into. That is becoming normal. The call was inspired thirty years earlier by his visit to the Sant'Egidio in Rome. Some well-educated young Romans wanted to live out their faith and connect with the poor. They met to pray and started to befriend poor people.

These dynamics have become a rule for this movement. The combination of a mission call and a living spirituality is always a good starting place.

At the invitation of the Bishop of Kensington, who knew of this growing interest, Tom, Joanna and their five children moved to Earls Court in Autumn 2004 to lay the foundations for a non parochial new work based on these values. They were given the vicarage and church of St Jude, which, it was decided, had more future as a specialist ministry within a wider group of churches than as one small congregation serving a small parish.

New work entering new territory needs clear minimalist values and flexibility to what will emerge. The values come partly from Sant'Egidio, but are also shaped by the dynamics of the Trinity and the Body of Christ. Both emphasise the prime nature of being Christian as communal.

The first and central task is to grow quality community with those who are prepared to be committed 'to live with the poor and to pray'. Twenty years ago this might have been a specialist ministry by the likeminded from an existing church. Now a specific mission calling is creating a fresh expression of church. This is a practical example of mission-shaped church.

A prayerful community that shares a passion to be with the poor, which enjoys being together and models everyone joining in, helps break the false divide between rich and poor.

Commitment to Christ is expressed by making a priority of the rhythm of prayer (which operates each midweek day - in the morning by arrangement in members' homes; in St Jude's Church at 12 and 3pm for 15 minutes; and on Tuesday and Friday evenings), and by proactively making friendships with those who are unlikely to have met others. As much as possible, The Community of St Jude volunteers help with existing projects, charities and local institutions.

To emphasise that discipleship is a way of living and not primarily defined by attendance at Sunday worship, The Community of St Jude organises nothing on a Sunday. However, they do have celebrations to mark the major festivals of Advent, Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. It is at these celebrations that new members are received.

St Jude's expression of a new monasticism is intentionally less sophisticated than some other UK examples. They are exploring patterns of synagogue (teaching, festivals, family) as well as monastery.

St Jude is the patron of lost causes. In busy time-poor London, in notional communities that may be person-poor, starting communities of St Jude is far from a lost cause.