Oblate Spring: Thank you Julia for your excellent work in making Benedictine home gatherings more widely known. Please tell us about yourself and how you started your Benedictine Community.
My name is Julia Smead from the city of Bedford, in the
state of Texas, USA.
JULIA SMEAD: [Note: Julia had a photographer come one month to take pictures throughout the evening at her home. Pictures of Julia Smead's Benedictine Community home services.
I've learned to keep the date consistent. If I expect
others to make it a priority, I must do the same. No
changing the dates because something else is going on
that weekend. BC comes first and the date is always the
last Saturday of the month. By keeping it consistent,
it's easier for the members to get it into their rhythm.
I learned early on to allow the 30 minutes of built-in
visiting time. This gives us all a chance to visit since
many of us haven't seen each other in the last month and
it also allows time for latecomers to arrive. I use this
time to go over the evening with any first-time visitors
so they become more comfortable with what's going on.
JULIA SMEAD: I plan the menu and provide the main dish.
There are no paper plates or throwaways. This is an
opportunity to do our best to the glory of God. So
there's real dishes, wine glasses and tablecloths.
Since our group has grown, I've added flowers to the
items for them to bring.
We line up outside the oratory prior to the service
and process in. When we all are in place, we bow across
the room and I signal the start of the service with a
While the Benedictine Community met in my home, our group did not chant. I learned early on after
trying to have someone teach us Gregorian chant, that
the members of OUR group really do not want to sing or
chant. (Their abbess was very disappointed).
Oblate Spring: You have described how the Benedictine Community began in your home, the schedule for the meetings, and all the excellent notebook materials you prepared for the attendees.
How has the Benedictine Community changed?
We process from the hall while chanting a litany
with incense. We’ve even added the Salve Regina with asperges before departing.
diocesan paper did a story on us.
JULIA SMEAD: For me as the
only Benedictine oblate in the group, this is great. I get to do my
"monastic thing" one day a month AND I have others who
are joining me in this effort. I am studying the Rule of
St. Benedict (RB) much
more intensely than I might alone. My oblation is with a
community in Cape Cod. I live in Texas, so I can't get
there more than twice a year. There is one Cistercian
monastery in Dallas, but other than that, there's no
place nearby to go and get my monastic well filled up.
JULIA SMEAD: Just in
writing about this group on the OblateForum, two people
have started similar groups - one in IN, and the other
is Barb's in CA.
This group is ecumenical. I am proud of that. I want to emulate the early church when there were no denominations, so this fits me. I was asked by one gal to come to their dinner and for their worship that evening, she wanted me to "do what we do at Benedictine Community with the silence at the end". Five people from that group joined the BC. I had never previously met any of them. Another person invited her Baptist neighbor to come. She is still with us and is drawn so much to the liturgical life, that she's been attending various Episcopal churches on Sundays. One young father comes while his wife stays home with their kids. This has become "his" thing. The wife is thrilled as he has not gotten involved in their church, but this is where he feels comfortable.
If it was held at a conference room or community center, I wonder if he'd come? Most of the folks in our group are from the area Episcopal churches, but we do have a couple of Roman Catholics. But when we gather, our denominational labels are left outside. When they walk in, they are Benedictine Community.
Oblate Spring: What should BGs be in 10 years?
JULIA SMEAD: I'll leave that to the
JULIA SMEAD: As in much of my reading
about the monastic life attests, the vowed celibate life
has been dwindling in numbers. BUT, the
Oblates/Associates/Third-orders have grown. There will
always be a need for monasteries as that is a touchstone
for people like me. We can go there to recapture our
monastic souls and come out refreshed and better able to
embrace the secular world we live in.