The Monastery and the Parish (First of a series)

Author: Bishop Savas Zembillas
Date Published: 01/01/2010

This article was published in the January-February, 2010, issue of the Orthodox Observer.

I was 23 years old, a year-and-a-half out of college, when I left the United States for the first time on my own in January of 1981 to test my monastic vocation. I didn’t have much
choice about leaving; there were no viable options for men or women of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese who felt called to the monastic life in those days.

Although I left home intending never to return, in fact I came back to the States a year to the date after my departure, but not before I had experienced Orthodox Christian monastic life in a surprising variety of expressions: for two months, in ten of the twenty monasteries of the Holy Mountain of Athos; for seven months, at the Monasteries of the Apocalypse
and St Panteleimon on the islands of Patmos and Kalymnos; and at the Holy Stavropeigic Monastery of St John the Baptist in Tolleshunt Knights by Malden, Essex, for four months.

My life’s path has taken unexpected turns, and I now serve the Church of Christ in the world rather than apart from it, but I often reflect on who I met and what I heard and saw
and did and read and thought about and learned in that long but single year of my monastic testing, with gratitude to God for every part of it.

Nearly three decades later, much has changed. There are now several thriving communities throughout North America where men and women can go to live lives of evangelical
simplicity, to be alone with others who are alone with God.

The rapid rise of monasticism in this country