In order to discern vocation to Companionship, a three stage novitiate process is in place. The idea of this is that a novice can properly explore the Community, and what it means, before making a commitment as a Companion, it is not designed to be a long set of hurdles to jump over.
Stage 1: Community Introduction Retreat
These retreats are for anyone interested in finding out more about Northumbria Community including those actively exploring admission to our Way for Living, who we refer to as Postulants. Community Introductions are usually held at the Nether Springs, our Mother House, over a weekend or during a four day mid-week gathering and run approximately bi-monthly.
These retreats will give Postulants:
- An introduction to the Community, its history and influences, life and ethos.
- An opportunity for personal reflection to consider ‘what would Companionship mean for me?’
- An open forum for discussion and questions
- The chance to experience the day to day life of the Community as it is expressed at the Mother House
- An outline of the novitiate process
- An invitation to journey further with us either by joining the Novitiate or, by becoming, or continuing to be, a Friend of Northumbria Community
Following the Community Introduction Postulants are encouraged to:
- Reflect and pray on who they are and what God is saying to them about what they have heard and experienced during the retreat
- Write to the Community Office if they wish to become Novice Companions
Anyone who does not feel, for whatever reason, that they want to become a Novice, and who is not already a Friend of Northumbria Community, is very welcome to become a friend by letting the office know of their wish to continue to journey with us in this way. Those who wish to become Novice Companions enter stage 2
Stage 2: Novitiate
This involves accompanied distance learning. The Novice is allocated a Mentor who will journey with them as they work through a series of 12 modules. As this is a discerning process, not a knowledge gathering exercise, it is important to take enough time over it to allow the material under study to be reflected on and tested out in daily life. We suggest that, normally, the minimum time taken over the modules is one year.
The modules are a way of looking in more depth at the Community’s Rule. Each module takes an aspect of the Rule and explores it in the context of real life. Some information is given as a starting point but the Novice is encouraged to use the reading and resource list provided to find out more for themselves. It is not intended to be an academic exercise so the emphasis is on application to daily life and consideration of how being a Companion in Northumbria Community would help the Novice to seek God, make life choices and be a witness in the world. It is intended to deepen awareness of what committing to a life of Availability and Vulnerability would really mean. It is hoped that the Novice will feel able to share their discoveries with their Mentor but there are no exams or marked assignments.
The role of the Mentor is to be available for discussion and advice, to act as an encourager and sounding board and to help the Novice discern whether our Way for Living is right for them. Exactly how this works in practice will be for the Novice and Mentor to decide between them but regular contact is expected by various means, including some face to face contact if at all possible.
During this period Novice Companions will be expected to:
- Use the Daily Office
- Take what opportunities they can to meet with other Companions, Novices and Friends of Northumbria Community at Community Group meetings, Community Gatherings or at the Mother House. If the opportunity arises, Novices are encouraged to join a team involved in an event to which the Community has been invited to contribute.
- Undertake to spend at least a week at the Mother House preferably as a volunteer. We appreciate that for some, particularly those living abroad or whose lives are constrained in other ways, this may not always be possible, but where it is not feasible, Novices are encouraged to work with their Mentor to find another way of gaining the additional perspective on Community life that such an opportunity brings.
- Take an annual retreat at the Mother House, or undertake a pilgrimage to a site of significance for the Community for time alone with God.
Stage 3: Reception as a Companion
On completion of the modules, the Novice Companion and Mentor will discern with the Community leadership whether it is right for the Novice to be invited into Companionship. If the decision is that they should be, then the Novice will receive a written invitation to journey on with the Community as a Companion.
At the earliest opportunity the Novice will be received into Companionship at a gathering of Companions. This could be as part of a retreat or other event at the Mother House or else it can be at a specially convened informal gathering of Companions near the Novice’s home. We have a dedicated liturgy and blessing for the welcoming in of new Companions and the occasion will be marked for the new Companion by the receiving of an illustrated personalised copy of the Rule. The event will be made known to the rest of the Community through announcements in CAIM and at the Easter Workshop.
We are pilgrims on a journey, we’re Companions on the road, We are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load
You can read about the expectations of Companionship
However if being a Companion doesn’t seem the right thing at the moment, you can become a Friend of the Northumbria Community.