Lambeth prayer community is 'a thing of God, it can't be anything else' says new Prior

A young Swedish priest whose spirituality was formed in both the Pentecostal and Anglo-Catholic traditions of the Church has been appointed Prior of the new Community of St Anselm at Lambeth Palace.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby and Rev Anders Litzell will soon begin selecting the 16 full-time members of the community who will live as modern-day monks and nuns in the grounds of the medieval Palace, along with the 40 part-timers. They will take up residence next September.

Mr Litzell, who with his wife Kate and two toddler children will also live at the Palace, said the new community will draw on the Rule of St Benedict and the spiritual exercises and writings of St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, the order that formed the present Pope. "It is a re-bottling of a fine vintage claret," he said.

"This is a thing of God, it can't be anything else. What really captivates my imagination is that this is something absolutely new but at the same time there is nothing new about it at all."

Mr Litzell said the community, in which adults aged 20 to 35 will live as members of a traditional religious community for ten months, represents a conscious return to a radical, early-church style of Christianity in the Church. Those taking part will work alongside the poor and dispossessed in soup kitchens and similar projects.

The "Anselmians" will not regard themselves as Anglicans, Pentecostals, Catholics, Lutherans or anything else, except simply "Christians". They will follow a monastic routine of prayer, worship and study. They might also begin growing their own produce in the large gardens of Lambeth Palace.

Citing St Benedict, Mr Litzell said the community offered a way of life "to those who would prefer nothing whatever to Christ." He added: "The impact on those who desire this kind of life and formation is going to be far-reaching, both in a personal scope, and the scope of where they find themselves in life." Some of the Anselmians will go on to be "leaders of families" and others will be "leaders of nations", he predicted.

Mr Litzell, 34, from Sweden, trained at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, was ordained in the Church of England two years ago. He currently ministers at St George's Holborn, focusing on students and young adults, and is also studying for a doctorate on the relevance of St Benedict for contemporary leadership. In Sweden, where he grew up in the Pentecostal church, he served in the Lutheran church in Stockholm and directed the Sweden office of Alpha.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will be Abbot of St Anselm.Reuters

Archbishop Welby, the Abbot, said: "My vision for the Community of St Anselm is that it be both ancient and postmodern, that young adults be steeped in the rich monastic traditions of the likes of Benedict, Francis and Ignatius, while discovering their striking relevance for the transformation of self and society today."

The Archbishop's chaplain Dr Jo Wells, who has led the setting up of the community, said: "Anders brings an experience and hunger for spiritual formation which is both wide and deep – crossing a variety of continents and traditions."

The community was partly inspired by Stanley Hauerwas, chair in theological ethics at the University of Aberdeen.

Prof Hauerwas said: "Archbishop Welby brings a wisdom that has been tuned through secular engagement. He has excellent judgement about people. These are the qualities needed in an Abbot. People are rediscovering the significance of prayer as the way God is turned loose into the world."

In today's world, given the crisis in the Middle East, the community will set an example. "It will show that it is actually possible for people to live together without killing one another."

To apply, go to:

For a Q&A with the Archbishop's Chaplain, Jo Wells, click here.