Hermits in Episcopal Canon Law

The Episcopal Church (TEC) in the United States of America is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church is also known as the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America (PECUSA or ECUSA). As of 2010, the Episcopal Church reports 2,125,012 baptized members. The majority of members are in the United States. The Episcopal Church publishes its own Book of Common Prayer (BCP) (similar to other Anglican prayerbooks): “The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church Together with The Psalter or Psalms of David According to the use of The Episcopal Church” (current edition 1979). See http://www.episcopalchurch.org/
TEC prayer book
Fr Tobias Haller, BSG, kindly provided me with details of the canonical requirements and the form for the “setting apart” of a “special vocation” (which is used for Hermits) in the Episcopal Church.
episcopal canons
The Canon relevant to Hermits is as follows:

Sec. 3. Any Bishop receiving vows of an individual not a member of a Religious Order or other Christian Community, using the form for “Setting Apart for a Special Vocation” in the Book of Occasional Services , or a similar rite, shall record the following information with
the Standing Committee on Religious Communities of the House of Bishops: the name of the person making vows; the date of the service; the nature and contents of the vows made, whether temporary or permanent; and any other pastoral considerations as shall be deemed necessary.
The Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, 2012: http://www.episcopalarchives.org/CandC_ToC_2012.html

Fr Tobias commented: “The general term used for all “individual” religious here in TEC is “solitary” and this canon was provided solely to provide for some kind of wider awareness of the existence of such solitaries, not, as some of them have wrongly asserted, to “control” them. (As you can see, there is nothing in the canon that lays any burden on the hermit or anchorite, only on the bishop). A number of bishops who have received the vows of solitaries have been in consultation to draw up informal guidelines for discernment and formation, as often people simply present themselves asking to be “clothed” and bishops are rightly concerned that while the vocation is solitary it is not “non-ecclesial” and that some form of regula is needed for the well being both of the solitary and the church. But these conversations are very much in the pre-canonical stage of things, and I doubt they will ever become canons either locally or for the whole church.”

In some dioceses, the Bishop requires written statements of purpose and intent from the candidate; written references; interviews with and evaluations by people appointed by the Bishop; psychological and medical evaluations; and extensive background checks.

The form of service used for the setting apart of a Hermit is:
occasional services
Setting Apart for a Special Vocation Individual Christians, in response to God’s call, may wish to commit themselves to the religious life under vows made directly to the bishop of the diocese.
tec hermit vows
The order which follows is not intended to supplant forms in use for admitting members to religious communities. Where life profession is intended, the process normally involves three stages: novitiate, temporary or annual vows, and life profession. In some instances, persons may choose not to proceed beyond the stage of annual vows.
The novitiate is a period of testing. Admission to the novitiate normally takes place at a weekday Daily Office, at the time of the hymn or anthem which follows the Collects. It involves a promise to accept and follow a specific and agreed-upon rule of life for a period of time prescribed by the bishop.
Temporary or annual vows are made at the satisfactory conclusion of the prescribed period of testing. At this time, the person takes vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience to the bishop, for a prescribed length of time. This stage involves the acceptance of the obligation to recite an approved form of the Daily Office. The rite takes place at a celebration of the Holy Eucharist, immediately after the Prayers of the People and before the Peace. Appropriate clothing may be presented as a sign of dedication.
Final or life vows are made at a festal celebration of the Holy Eucharist. At this time additional symbols of dedication may be given.

The order of the rite is identical for all three stages.
1. A request by the person to be admitted to the appropriate stage.
2. A sermon or homily, or an address to the person.
3. An examination by the bishop concerning the nature of the commitment and of the person’s desire for this special vocation.
4. The promises or vows appropriate to the stage of profession.
5. The appropriate prayer or blessing appended to this order, or some other similar form.
6. The presentation of clothing and other symbols of special vocation.

Appropriate Lessons and Psalms
Old Testament
Genesis 12:1-4a(4b-8) (The Call of Abraham)
1 Samuel 3:1-11 (The Call of Samuel)
1 Kings 19:16b,19-21 (The Call of Elisha)
Psalms 23 (The Lord is my shepherd)
24:1-6(7-10) (Who can ascend the hill of the Lord?)
27:1-11(12-18) (Your face, Lord, will I seek)
33:(1-11)12-22 (The eye of the Lord is upon those who fear him)
34:1-8(9-22) (I will bless the Lord at all times)
40:1-12 (I love to do your will, O my God)
63:1-12 (You are my God; eagerly I seek you)
100(Serve the Lord with gladness)
New Testament
Acts2:42-47 (The apostles’ teaching and fellowship)
Acts4:32-35 (They had everything in common)
1 Corinthians 1:22-31(God chose what was foolish)
Philippians 3:8-14 (That I may gain Christ)
Colossian3:12-17 (Put on love, which binds everything together)
1 John 4:7-16 (He who abides in love abides in God)
The Gospel
Matthew 16:24-27 (Let him take up his cross and follow me)
Matthew 19:3-12 (Eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom)
Matthew 19:16-26 (Sell what you possess and give to the poor)
John 15:1-8 (I am the vine, you are the branches)

Prayer for a Novice
Look with favor, Almighty God, upon this your servant N., who, in response to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, desires to commit himself to you in a life of special vocation, and is undertaking to embrace the three-fold path of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Grant him the strength of your grace to persevere in his endeavor, and the guidance of the Spirit to find his true vocation. If it be your will that he continue in this way, reveal this to
him, we pray, and bring him in due time to the taking of solemn vows; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Dedication of a Person Taking Temporary or Annual Vows
May God the Lord, who called Abraham to leave home and kindred to journey to an unknown destination, and who led the people of Israel by the hand of Moses his servant
through the desert to the promised land: Shepherd you in your pilgrimage, and lead you by safe pathways, for his Name’s sake. Amen.

May God the Son, who, in his earthly life, was often solitary but never alone, because the Father was with him: Be your constant companion in your withdrawals from the busyness of the world, and support and strengthen you when you return refreshed to bear witness to the love and power of God. Amen.

May God the Holy Spirit, who helps us in our weakness, and intercedes for the saints in accordance with the Father’s will: Teach you to pray as you ought to pray; strengthen you in purity of faith, in holiness of life, and in perfectness of love; and bind you ever more and more closely to the Father through the Son. Amen.

And may Almighty God, the holy and undivided Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, guard your body, save your soul, and bring you safely to the heavenly country; where he lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Dedication of a Person Taking Life Vows
Blessed are you, O Lord our God, for your great love in sending into the world your only-begotten Son, who for us and for our salvation, emptied himself of his divine estate, and embraced a life apart from the consolations of family, having not even a place to lay his head. We bless your Name, also, that in every age and land you have called men and women to imitate their Lord, by setting zeal for your kingdom and its righteousness ahead of all worldly considerations, the love of your little ones above the claims of flesh and blood, and obedience to your will in place of all personal ambitions.

“The Book of Occasional Services 2003 Conforming to General Convention 2003” [Church Publishing, New York, 2004] http://www.richardliantonio.com/anglican/Occasional%20Services%202003.pdf

For some Episcopalian Hermits, see:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: