April 12, 2010

To Everything There Is a Season: Transitions at the Virtual Abbey

In this post, our Abbess, Raima Larter, shares a bit of Virtual Abbey history and introduces her successor.

Two years ago, I was elected Abbess of the Urban Abbey, a Benedictine community in Arlington, Virginia. The Urban Abbey had been in existence for about five years and part of the modern monastic movement, meaning members do not live together. Rather, they function as a group of semi-solitary religious monastics while living out ordinary lives as family members, workers and members of the community.

As part of my leadership of this group, I started a blog to help us connect with others who might also be interested in living a Benedictine-inspired life in the real world. Last year during Lent, I added a Twitter account and began using it to pray the Daily Office. To my great surprise, people began following along and re-tweeting portions of prayers. Before I knew what was happening, a true, albeit virtual, community had formed around praying the Daily Office.

I continued tweeting the Daily Office until October 2009 when I realized it was time to step down as Abbess of the Urban Abbey. At that point, I asked a number of the most faithful prayer participants if they’d help continue tweeting prayers. This request was enthusiastically received. We also took this time of transition as an opportunity to rename ourselves the Virtual Abbey to better reflect our mission and our commitment to using social media for building community.

Shortly after Christmas, the Virtual Abbey was launched, complete with a new blog (this one) and an enthusiastic prayer team that currently tweets Morning Prayer and Compline. I agreed to continue serving as Abbess while the online community got re-organized and established.

Things move faster in the online world, and the Virtual Abbey has quickly established a firm presence; members have developed strong ties to one another.

Several weeks ago, I announced to our core group my intention to step down as Abbess to pursue other activities. (Among these activities: finishing my book about Science and Spirituality; developing a series of presentations and workshops around concepts presented; and learning more about devotional chant.)

In Benedictine communities, new leadership is chosen through a process of discernment involving prayer, discussion, more prayer, more discussion, etc., until consensus is reached. If discernment is successful, the community will eventually identify someone they wish to “lift up” to the position of Abbess or Abbott.

The Virtual Abbey community entered a period of discernment during Lent. The result of that process was a consensus to elect Meredith Gould to be our new Abbess. I know I speak for all members of the Virtual Abbey in saying how delighted we are that Meredith has accepted our call and is taking over the reigns of leadership of the Abbey. We are truly blessed!

As you know, Meredith is a terrific writer and editor who has developed an engaging blog for the community. In addition, she’s a skilled and gentle leader who understands and cares for people. Most importantly, she’s deeply rooted in God and grounded in prayer and brings a full, rich spirituality to everything she does. She will be sharing more about the community’s plans in a future blog post. For now, please join me in welcoming Meredith as our new Abbess. Thanks be to God!



Fran said...

God bless you on your journey Raima and blessings to Meredith on hers!

Elizabeth Cunningham said...

Godspeed to you, Raima, and much gratitude for following the promptings of the Holy Spirit and founding this community.

Meredith, as soon as I understood there was to be a change I immediately thought: Meredith should be abbess paragraphs before your name was announced. Godspeed to you, too.

I thank everyone at The Virtual Abbey for inspiration and faithfulness.