Rev Hannah Lewis SCL

I spent a lot of time on Google, ‘exploring’ dispersed religious communities, oblate life, tertiary life but nothing fitted until I found the Single Consecrated Life. And which I was wondering if this was for me, on 14th February 2016, during a service celebrating romantic love, I suddenly sensed Jesus calling me into the particular relationship of vowed celibacy that I had been reading about.

Rev Hannah Lewis SCL

What is the Single Consecrated Life?

The Single Consecrated Life is a covenant commitment whereby a person professes a vow of consecrated celibacy as a way of making a personal response to God’s call. Rev Hannah Lewis is a priest in the Diocese of Oxford and she took her Life Vows in the Single Consecrated Life in October 2022.

How did the Single Consecrated Life network (SCL) begin?

Around 20 years ago, the Bishop of Reading and the superior of the Community of St John the Divine were aware that there were people living a vowed celibate life but were unknown to each other.  So, they wrote to all the bishops and all the religious communities to find out who were known to them.  Several people were contacted. Also, the Advisory Council reported an increasing number of requests from Bishops and others for advice and guidance about those seeking admission to the consecrated celibate life. So, the Council set up a private vows sub-group to monitor such requests and to offer the necessary guidance to Bishops and lay people. An OCV (Order of Consecrated Virgins) sister joined this group in order to provide much valued wisdom from their experience in the RC church. And the Bishop of Reading, a member of the Advisory Council, agreed to chair the sub-group.

The first meeting was held in November 2002.  They thought it would be a tough job to get this way of life known and accepted, because celibacy is not the norm in the Church of England. They explored the role of religious communities as an already existing group of celibate men and women who could ‘walk with’ enquirers, since so far there were so few single vowed men and women who could accompany candidates. And the House of Bishops approved a rite which is the liturgical basis for all consecration services in the Church of England.

A launch day was held in April 2005. The private vows sub-group was joined by six others who were either in vows or interested in making their vow. SCL had begun!    About 10 years ago, it was felt that there were enough mature members of SCL to take a lead and steer the network forward.  The subgroup was disbanded and now a group of 4 deans deal with enquiries, support those who are seeking and manage all the admin. The network has been growing slowly.  We now have 35 people in life vows and 8 in 1st vows and several others who join as Friends.  We are a diverse group of men and women; lay and ordained; contemplative, active and mixed.

How does the Network meet?

We keep in touch with each other primarily by prayer.  We circulate a prayer diary on which all our members, seekers and friends are named and commit to pray for each other daily. We also produce a twice-yearly magazine. We hold an annual network day and weekend conference.  And since lockdown have been having regular times together on Zoom. We get a number of enquiries from overseas.  Vowed people in countries like the USA, where there is nothing like SCL, can feel a bit isolated so they value being as much a part of us as is possible.

What do you value most about the Single Consecrated Life?

I’ve felt an attraction to religious life since I was a child. But as I grew into adulthood and became ordained as a priest and married and had a child, I assumed it was not for me in any conventional form. But once I divorced and began reflecting on my spiritual life as a single woman, the call returned, more strongly. I spent a lot of time on Google, ‘exploring’ dispersed religious communities, oblate life, tertiary life but nothing fitted until I found SCL. And which I was wondering if this was for me, on 14th February 2016, during a service celebrating romantic love, I suddenly sensed Jesus calling me into the particular relationship of vowed celibacy that I had been reading about. I emailed the contact on the website and was put in touch with one of the deans, Beverley. This began a slow process of discernment – talking to Beverley, talking to my spiritual director (and finding a new one), talking to my diocesan bishop (who ‘holds’ the vows) and much prayer until I took first vows in October 2018. I celebrated my life vows in October 2022.

What does the SCL Network mean to you?

I really value SCL as a network rather than a community because we are so varied, we all follow our own rules of life that are right for our particular circumstances. There are guidelines available to help form a rule of life if you are not already linked to a religious community as an oblate or tertiary. As a Deaf woman, I also value that this community has a number of disabled members and it is also good, as a solitary, to have this network of prayer support and the opportunity to spend time with others who also seek to live a solitary, vowed life, in the world.

My Life Profession

I celebrated my Life Profession in October 2022 at the Shrine of St Frideswide in Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. 

The Single Consecrated Life Network
open book, library, education-1428428.jpg
Read More Vocation Stories