Over 100 members of Anglican religious communities gathered at the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury on Friday to discuss renewal in the religious life of the Church.
Archbishop Justin Welby led discussions at Lambeth Palace, drawing on the expertise of the religious communities in their commitment to prayer, community living, and radical service to Christ.
The conference reflects the Archbishop's ongoing commitment to renewing prayer and religious life among Anglicans - a core priority for his ministry.
He is keen to reinvigorate and reimagine connections between religious communities and the Church's structures. Last month, four members of the ecumenical community Chemin Neuf took up permanent residence at Lambeth Palace to support the daily life of prayer at the Archbishop's official residence and pray for the unity of the Church more broadly.
Archbishop Welby expressed his admiration for members of religious communities and their commitment to Jesus "in radical and costly ways", saying the Church would be "diminished both in depth and breadth" without them.
"I see them as a very modern icon for something most of us long for – for spirituality which is embodied and earthed; for integrity which is transparent and focused; for relationships which are deep and inclusive, often engaged with those in our society in deep poverty and need," he said.
The Archbishop of Canterbury's Chaplain, the Reverend Dr Jo Wells, said: "Future generations may look back and say, 'In those early decades of the 21st century, the Church blossomed thanks to the growth of religious communities.' They are bubbling up in surprising places."
The Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, who chairs the Advisory Council on the Relations between Bishops and Religious Communities, said it was "hugely moving" to see passion and wisdom being shared between newly emerging religious orders and those established in the last two centuries.
"Both are living the Christian life in a deep discipline of prayer and community-belonging, a discipline that for many provides the energy and inspiration both for radical living and for mission and ministry in the most demanding contexts," he said.