A personal reflection on fifty years of life together in covenant community which began in Ann Arbor, Michigan USA in 1970
Since I was eighteen years old, my life has been rooted in ecumenical, charismatic, covenant Christian community. As we read in the Book of Sirach (a Deuterocanonical book also known as Ecclesiasticus), “The Lord has fixed a place for me…. I have taken root in a privileged people, in the Lord’s inheritance” (24:12).
I was raised in Pennsylvania where I attended Catholic grade school and high school. Even as a child I loved the Lord, but my relationship with him wasn’t particularly personal. In 1969 I moved to Ann Arbor to study at the University of Michigan, and during my first week on campus I met people who told me about prayer meetings and the dramatic outpouring of the Holy Spirit that had begun to happen in the Catholic Church just two years before, in 1967.
I was prayed with for what came to be called the baptism in the Spirit after the first prayer meeting I attended. There were no Life in the Spirit seminars back then – and I’ve kept on going to prayer meetings ever since. At that time, our prayer group was just beginning to pray and talk about the idea of covenant, and I was among the brothers and sisters who then made the first public commitment to our covenant in September of 1970. I remember writing in a journal, “This is something much greater than I ever expected to find…. this is something much greater to live for than myself.”
As a university student, I was at the age of making major decisions about my studies, career, and state of life. I consider it a great blessing that God “grabbed hold of me” at that point as my vision and choices were then shaped by my deepening relationship with the Lord. I “took root in a privileged people,” a people to whom I’ve given my life and whom I’ve seen over the past fifty years grow along with me.
When I was baptized in the Spirit, I experienced the Lord’s love and desire for me in a deeply personal way. His love was a great gift to me – and it was amazing that he could desire me for himself! So it simply made sense to me to make a gift of myself to him alone in return.
Choosing to live single for the Lord was my response to knowing God’s love for me and wanting to love him with an undivided heart. It’s a way of keeping my heart for God alone. There is a verse from the 16th-century Jesuit poet and martyr St. Robert Southwell that expresses what I mean very well:
“God is my gift; himself he freely gave me.
God’s gift am I, and none but God shall have me.”
In living single for the Lord, I’m making a freewill offering of myself, of my love, to God – a kind of total “givenness” of myself to him. God has full claim on me. But what makes this possible is his “givenness” to me – in response to his love, I’m making him the prize and portion of my life.
There are many ways of living single for the Lord, for example, in a religious sisterhood or monastery, and in those “early days” I considered if I should follow such a path. But I knew that my personal call from God to live single for him was – and is – also interwoven with my call to live in charismatic, ecumenical covenant community. So I made an “initial commitment” as a “first step” in living single for the Lord in 1971, and in 1977 I and a few other women made our lifelong commitments. Over the past fifty years we sisters have “pioneered” and established a way of life adapted to our call, mission, and identity within the Sword of the Spirit.
Today twenty-one single for the Lord women are members of Bethany Association, living in our communities in Scotland, England, Ecuador, Northern Ireland, Mexico, Costa Rica, the Philippines, and throughout the United States as well as “on mission” in Thailand.
Our way of life gives witness to the world today of the reality of God’s personal love for each of his people and the reality that God alone and his love are sufficient for us. As members of Bethany Association, we support one another in living our ideal of life and encourage another in our love for God and in our desire to know and live for him as fully as possible. Our energy and time is dedicated to prayer, Christian service and mission outreaches, and work in various professional fields.
Over the past many years I’ve also had the privilege of serving as a senior woman leader in my local community in Ann Arbor, the Word of Life, as well as visiting and serving our communities in the Philippines, Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Lebanon and throughout the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States. What a blessing to be part of a worldwide network of brothers and sisters sharing the same love for the Lord and mission in the Sword of the Spirit.
In addition to God’s grace, it’s the love, support, and wisdom that I’ve experienced from my sisters and brothers – married and single – that have given me the strength to be faithful to God’s call on my life. It’s now fifty years since I made my public commitment to live in covenant community, “rooted in God’s people,” and forty-three years since I made my lifelong commitment to live single for the Lord. But those years are nothing compared to the eternity that lies ahead of being loved by the Lord and loving him in return!
Thanks be to God!
Top photos: Covenant Community prayer meeting on left, Bethany Association of women living single for the Lord on the right