St Anthony is known as the Father of monasticism. He was a man who sought spiritual truth and decided to get away from everything and everyone to find it.
Anthony began his spiritual journey into monasticism by going into the desert and purposely living alone. He was the first known ascetic going into the wilderness (about AD 270–271), a geographical move that seems to have contributed to his renown. He is notable for being one of the first ascetics to attempt living in the desert proper, completely cut off from civilisation. His lifestyle was remarkably harsher than that of his predecessors. Yet the title of Father of monasticism is merited as he was the inspiration for the coming of hundreds of men and women into the depths of the desert, who were then loosely organised into small communities.
As the rest of the church fitted in with the Roman legalisation of Christianity – a move which led to the introduction of pagan elements into Christianity, like temple, priest, and ritual – Anthony, and eventually his followers, developed an alternative to the Romanised version of the faith. It was, once again, people seeking an ‘aliveness’ in their faith rather than being stifled by the institution.
Anthony seems to be a great example of some parts of the emerging church.
The friends I meet with are seeking a similar alternative to institutional or organised religion.
The idea of the Community Of ST Anthony came to me one day as I sat in a coffee shop waiting to meet another Free Range friend. I was thinking about having some loose community of like-minded people. As I looked down at my coffee cup, the logo on the cup – COSTA – seemed to suggest the Community Of ST Antony. I wouldn’t for a minute say ‘God told me’ but the idea of something light and all about friendship, which often happens over coffee, readily suggested itself.