2011 - Vol. 51
Steve Clark, founder of the
Servants of the Word (second from right) with brothers gathered for an
international council meeting in August 2010
of the Word
thanks for forty years
God's call and faithfulness
Servants of the Word is an ecumenical, international brotherhood of
men living single for the Lord within a larger community of communities,
the Sword of the Spirit. The brotherhood began 40 years ago in August of
1971. Today there are more than forty lifelong members, along with many
other younger men who are affiliates or in a formation process in the Servants
of the Word. The brothers live a common way of life in ten households around
the world and actively serve in the mission of the Sword of the Spirit,
an international network of Christian communities. The following articles
highlight some of the key aspects of the brotherhood, as well as its early
Introduction to Servants
by Andy Pettman
In the New Testament, a young man seeks out Jesus to learn from him
the path to eternal life. Jesus’ reply was a personal invitation – “Go,
sell what you have and give to the poor … and come, follow me” (Mark 10:21).
That invitation has been taken up by Christians through the centuries;
the Servants of the Word began with a similar call.
In the early 1970s, a group of young men, inspired by the Holy Spirit,
came together with a common vision for a life of total consecration to
God, lived in community and in simplicity, for the sake of more fruitful
and effective service to the Christian people. What follows is a brief
description of the most important aspects of our brotherhood.
Single for the
There are many ways of following the Lord, and most Christians are
called to the blessing of marriage, family life, and fruitful careers.
But by choosing to stay single, we in the Servants of the Word are free
to devote our time, energy, and resources to more direct and concerted
service of the Lord and his people (1 Corinthians 7:25-33). Jesus himself
is our best model of a man whose perfect freedom and single-minded dedication
to his Father enabled him to accomplish his mission on earth (Matthew 19:10-12).
|“In response to the exceeding greatness
of the gift of God, we dedicate ourselves to loving him with all our heart,
mind, soul and strength, and consecrate our lives to his service.”
– from Servants
of the Word Covenant
Our name, The Servants of the Word, expresses our fundamental identity:
we are servants of Jesus Christ, servants of his Gospel which we wish to
proclaim to others, and servants of the local communities of which we are
a part and of the larger Sword of the Spirit, an international and ecumenical
federation of covenant communities. As servants, we believe that our lives
are “not our own” (1 Corinthians 6:19), and we wish to place all our time
and every aspect of our lives at the disposal of the Lord and of his people.
A few of the brothers from Michigan
on Christmas retreat 2010
We firmly believe that God has called each brother to make a personal
decision to be his disciple. Like the man who stumbled upon hidden, buried
treasure, and like the merchant who chanced upon a pearl of exceeding value,
we have renounced all else in order to follow the Lord and have the “one
thing necessary” (Luke 10:42). To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to belong
to him. We are his men, going with him wherever he goes, trying to do his
work, and living as he would. Our desire is to imitate him as well as we
can, as we await the coming of his kingdom.
A life of prayer
The Servants of the Word aspire to be men of prayer. The worship of
God punctuates our waking hours, from morning praise together, to communal
evening and night prayers. Following a longstanding Christian tradition,
we chant the psalms, and together intercede for various needs. Appreciative
of the Lord’s gift of charismatic prayer and worship “in the Spirit,” we
also spontaneously “sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” with thankfulness
in our hearts (Colossians 3:16).
In addition to corporate worship, each brother also spends time individually
in prayer and meditation. The reading and study of Scripture is a
high priority, as well as growing in understanding of our Christian faith
through other teaching resources.
Several times a year, the brothers go on weekend retreats together.
These are special times for more extended prayer and meditation, and for
building up our brotherly relationships.
Brothers in North America enjoy
a celebrative Lord's Day dinner
A shared life
Our relationships of brotherhood and friendship are an integral element
of Servant of the Word life. We wish, not just to be co-workers or fellow
servants of one another, but brothers, friends in Christ. To this end,
we regularly meet in smaller groups to talk about our lives and to be accountable
to one another. We normally share the morning and evening meal together,
and we make time for other common activities, recreation, and fellowship
to strengthen and build up one another.
Sharing a common life also means respecting the order and structures
which make a corporate existence possible. Some brothers have pastoral
responsibility for governing our life and caring for brothers. Some
are entrusted with handling legal and financial matters on behalf of the
brotherhood. And some are concerned that the daily, ordinary life of our
various households goes well.
For us, living in a community means that we give up owning things individually,
and that we share all that we have; this sharing is the most obvious expression
of simplicity in our life. Simplicity expressed like this is not a burden,
but in fact a freedom, a freedom that means we do not need to own or possess
material things, and we find it gives us space to better meet and seek
the Lord, and to do his work. Simplicity does not mean that we don’t use
material things, even expensive ones, but rather that we only use what
we need to help us work, rest and be refreshed, and to live out well the
call the Lord has given us.
Called to serve
As a brotherhood, we have a special call to spread the Word of God,
and to help strengthen the quality of committed Christian life among his
people. Our work takes many forms, but most often it involves evangelism,
building Christian communities, and helping Christians to be “in the world
but not of it” (John 17:14).
Dan Keating (left) & Andy
Pettman (right) are frequent speakers at conferences
Because we are Servants of the Word, we aim to serve the Word of God,
that is, the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. One expression of this
is the love we have for God’s Word in Scripture. While every brother makes
time regularly for reading and studying the Bible, some of us who are able
to do so receive additional and in-depth training to better equip ourselves
to teach from the Scripture. We feel privileged to be able to teach God’s
truth from his Word, providing wisdom for living as Christians in the modern
Our brothers frequently teach at retreats, conferences, and prayer meetings.
Some brothers have also written books which have inspired and helped many
A commitment to
God calls all Christians to love one another despite the real differences
which exist between various denominations. The Servants of the Word is
open to men from the full spectrum of Christian churches; today we have
men from various Protestant, Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox traditions
joined to our life. We believe that what already unites us in Christ is
greater than that which still divides us. Christians from many backgrounds
can live and serve together in peace and love in spite of doctrinal differences.
Whether praying and worshipping the Lord together, or advancing the cause
of Christianity through evangelism and other society-impacting activities,
our brothers endeavor to respect the differences among the churches while
sharing commonly-held beliefs and practices as fully as we can.
As our Covenant expresses it: “We will pray for Christian unity and
so live that our life together might be an aid to the Christian people
as we all seek the Lord’s path to fuller unity.”
Tadhg Lynch (left) & Dave
Quintana (right) lead a mission household in Dublin
Many Servants of the Word are engaged in direct mission to young people.
Often this involves organizing youth and university-age groups in which
young people can discover (or re-discover) Christian faith, experience
love and acceptance from peers, and receive guidance and teaching from
older Christians. The activities our brothers are engaged in vary greatly:
Bible studies, retreats, international conferences, drama, community projects,
summer camps, outings – in short, any event in which young people can be
challenged, trained, and won over to a deeper life of discipleship.
To live as a disciple has never been easy. However, with modern Western
society moving away from its Christian roots, being a Christian disciple
is probably as hard today as at any time in the past. Strong committed
relationships are a key help in living as a disciple, and since its beginnings
the Servants of the Word has worked hard to found, build, and strengthen
communities of families and singles bound together by a covenant, or agreement,
to love and care for one another. These communities have over the last
forty years become not only places of support for their members, but also
focal points for renewal, mission, and outreach to those around them.
Brothers from London and Belfast
on retreat in Glenarif, Northern Ireland
Around the world
The Servants of the Word is part of an international and intercultural
network of more than 60 Christian ‘covenant’ communities of families and
singles called The Sword of the Spirit.
All our brothers in different houses throughout the world are actively
involved in their local Sword of the Spirit communities. The result has
been a mutual enrichment: brothers often provide much needed service to
the community, and at the same time receive tremendous love and support
from community members. For us, Jesus’ promise is time and again fulfilled:
that we who have left behind families and homes and lands would find so
much more in return – more families and homes and lands.
Living for a high
In the Gospel, Jesus’ call to discipleship to the rich, young man was
a loving call: “And Jesus looking upon him loved him” (Mark 10:21). Unfortunately,
the man was unwilling to accept the invitation – “His face fell, and he
went away sorrowful.”
We in the Servants of the Word see ourselves as men who have been richly
blessed by God. We desire to answer the Lord’s invitation with joyful,
wholehearted, and single-minded devotion. Rather than turning away
sorrowfully, we want to be his dedicated servants and disciples, having
him as our treasure and portion.
As our Covenant reads, “To have the Lord as our only treasure and to
live with an undivided and single heart is the life of the Kingdom.” We
therefore accept this high ideal as an upward call of God in Christ Jesus
(Philippians 3:14), making every effort to love him and to make him loved.
Andy Pettman is senior coordinator
of Antioch Community in London,
UK and leader of the Servants
of the Word household in London. He is a member of the Sword of the
Spirit teaching team and regularly speaks at conferences, seminars, and
Word of Tribute
Jean Barbara, President of the Sword of the Spirit
unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the
Lord” (1 Cor. 7:32). How true this statement of Paul’s is about each and
every brother of “the Servants of the Word,” and how prophetic, exemplary,
and inspiring their individual lives are for each one of us in the Sword
of the Spirit – whether we are married or not, old or young.
the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one
said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had
everything in common” (Acts 4:32).” How accurately this description of
the early Christian community portrays the common life of “the Servants
of the Word,” and how prophetic, exemplary, and inspiring their life together
is for each of the Sword of the Spirit communities around the world.
is God’s plan and initiative that the Sword of the Spirit and the Servants
of the Word do not exist without each other and that they share the same
call and mission. May the Lord then – in his great mercy and favor –
grant and gift each and every one of our local communities not only with
single men who choose this life of sanctity, martyrdom, and mission, but
with enough of them to so that we see built in each of our communities
a “Servants of the Word” household.
warm congratulations on your 40th anniversary.
the Servants of the Word
Michael Shaughnessy and Don Schwager
Servants of the Word –
an ecumenical, international brotherhood of men living single for the Lord
within a larger community of communities, the Sword of the Spirit –
traces its roots to the late 1960s and early 1970s
a time of turbulent change and division in the US, marked by countercultural
forces that led to mass student rebellion, the sexual revolution, hippie
communes, the peace movement, riots, and violent anti-war demonstrations.
But it was also a time of God acting in a powerful way through new movements,
including the charismatic renewal and the covenant community movement.
1967 - Steve Clark (left) with Gerry
this period, Steve Clark, the founder of the Servants of the Word, began
to call young men to serious personal discipleship and to a common life
and mission as men living single for the Lord.
had been converted to Christ when he was a university student at Yale in
1960. Two books about Francis of Assisi, The Little Flowers of Saint
Francis and The Mirror of Perfection, were key in bringing him
to personal faith. In reading these books he saw that being a Christian
involved more than intellectual assent to the truth of Christianity –
also involved a living, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Like Francis,
Steve quickly decided that he needed to make a more concrete response to
the call of Christ. Francis of Assisi had made a decision to live as a
radical disciple of Christ. This call to radical discipleship provided
the vision for Steve to decide to live single for the Lord and to call
others to serious personal discipleship.
at Yale, Steve was also involved with the Morehouse Catholic chaplaincy
which was attempting to build a faith community environment. This attempt
at community began to form the basis of Steve's vision for building a community
of disciples on mission. He saw that those who were involved in Christian
activities together grew in faith and holiness while those who only attended
church on Sunday seemed to struggle with their faith and often left the
church during their university years.
went on to study for a year at the University of Freiburg in Germany and
then at the University of Nortre Dame. At Notre Dame he got involved in
the Curisillo, an evangelistic retreat-based renewal movement. In less
than two years became a writer and national leader for Curisillo. Steve
and other young leaders in Curisillo were also curious about the apparent
spiritual power found in Pentecostalism. Early in 1967 the charismatic
renewal erupted in the Catholic Church. Steve was among the first to be
"baptized in the Holy Spirit." He became one of the renewal's leading spokesmen
along with three other leaders from Notre Dame, moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan
in the autumn of 1967. They began to evangelize students at the University
of Michgan and invited the students to a charismatic prayer meeting initially
held in their apartment on Thursday evenings. Interest in charismatic renewal
soon brought hundreds of people to attend the weekly meetings in Ann Arbor.
Yocum, one of the first students to get involved in the beginnings of the
community, noted: “We wanted something more, something that would focus
on our relationships with one another in Ann Arbor. So we started a Monday
night meeting in addition to the Thursday meeting. God began to lead us
into something deeper. In the summer of 1969 we received some prophecies
about ‘covenant.’ We didn't understand this very well, so we started doing
a Scripture study on ‘covenant’ which led pretty quickly to the idea of
Christian community. By the beginning of 1970 we were talking about establishing
a community by making significant commitments to one another.”
teaching, one-on-one discipleship, and personal example inspired a number
of young men to consider the call to live single for the Lord.
example of Steve Clark's teaching on discipleship can be found in the following
commentary on the story of the encounter of the rich young man with Jesus
which is recorded in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 18. This exhortation
was given to the group of men who wanted to join the brotherhood in 1971.
of us are like the rich young man. We have been given much, we seem
to be living a good enough life, and yet we realize that there is more.
Jesus, in his love for us, has chosen and invited us to be his disciples,
to leave all else, and to identify our lives entirely with his. The
cost appears high, but it is nothing in comparison with what we gain.
To say 'no,' to hold on to what we already have, is ultimately to go away
sad and to lose everything.
a disciple of Jesus is a primary image of the Christian in the Scriptures.
It is also one of the first, and most fundamental, images that we have
been given as a brotherhood. We are loved and chosen by the Lord,
offered the ‘one thing,’ God himself, God alone.
are called as rich young men to leave all behind and to go with Jesus where
he is going. We are called to deny all rights and claims to our lives,
and instead to throw our lot in completely and without reserve with Jesus,
identifying utterly with him, seeking to be like him in everything, doing
what he does, fighting where he fights, sharing in his sufferings and trials,
and also sharing in his triumphs and joys.
be a disciple of the Lord Jesus is the highest call, the greatest privilege
that a man can and could aspire to. As disciples, let us answer the
invitation without hesitation or reluctance. Let us gladly sell all,
and leave everything else behind, and make the Lord himself, and the Lord
alone, our life.”
August 1971, Steve and seven young men who were seriously interested in
pursuing a call to live single for the Lord, took a 10-day retreat in Dexter,
Michigan. Over a period of months they had spent time praying, fasting,
and talking together about giving themselves to God in a special way. They
had studied the rules of many religious and monastic orders. They read
through and discussed the rules of Francis of Assisi, Benedict, Basil and
read Cassian’s conferences. During the retreat in Dexter, Steve and the
group set about putting together a set of ideals which they sought to live
by and formulated these ideals into a written “covenant.” At the end of
the retreat, they each made a temporary commitment to live single for the
Lord. The Servants of the Word was born.
1974 prayer meeting in Ann Arbor
- Bruce Yocum (right), Steve Clark (center), Don Schwager (left)
and a half years later, in January 1974, five of the original group of
eight deepened this commitment while on retreat at the Trappist monastery
of Genesee, in western New York State. During that retreat, they voluntarily
made a promise to remain single for the Lord for the remainder of their
lives and to live together a common life in community. The lifelong nature
of the commitment greatly strengthened the fledging brotherhood and guaranteed
it stability to go forward.
year later, in 1975, the young brotherhood adopted a name: The Servants
of the Word. The name reflects the call they believed God had given them,
a call to be servants of the Word of God, Jesus Christ, servants of the
Gospel which they wished to proclaim to others, and servants of the covenant
community which began in Ann Arbor, The Word of God, which joined with
other communities around the world in 1982 as a "community of communities"
called the Sword of the Spirit.
1975 prayer meeting in Ann Arbor -
two of the early brothers who decided to live single for the Lord were
Ted Kennedy (left) and Bob Bell (right)
Growth and expansion
next several years (1976-1990) were a time of growth and expansion. The
Servants of the Word went abroad to Belgium (1976) and London (1979) to
help build communities. Men came from other communities and countries to
"taste and see" and some went to see if they could begin a brotherhood
back home – with varying degrees of success.
late 1981 a brotherhood that was started in a community in Minneapolis,
Minnesota, decided to move to Ann Arbor. The merger of the two brotherhoods
in 1982, and the interest of many brothers from Lebanon, the Philippines,
and Latin America, in joining the Servants of the Word led to the decision
that the Servants of the Word would become an international brotherhood.
1986 the Servants of the Word established a household in Manila, Philippines.
In 1989 a household was established in Belfast, Northern Ireland. And in
1990 a household was established in Monterrey, Mexico.
recent years the Servants of the Word have established a household of affiliates
in Lebanon, and have expanded the number of households in the US to six
locations in Michigan.
is it that attracts a man to consider living the life of the Servants of
the Word? Possibly the most important is a desire to consecrate one's
life to the Lord in a radical way, living a life of single-minded dedication
to the Lord, or, as the Apostle Paul describes it, “To be undivided in
heart and to be anxious only about the affairs of the Lord, how to please
the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:32).
Treadwell, an Anglican who joined the Servants of the Word in 1987, expressed
how he reached his decision:
was a point in my life when I realized that, if Christianity was true,
then there was no other way to live it except in a wholehearted way.
Committing myself to the Servants of the Word was the way I felt God inviting
me to fulfil the calling he had given me.”
Smith, a Reformed Christian who joined the Servants of the Word in 1985,
puts it similarly:
desire was to live for God as fervently as I could. When I came into
contact with the Servants of the Word, I saw it as a way to live radically
for God. As I became more involved, I saw it as God’s way for me.”
of the Word in London host a "come and see" weekend retreat for men interested
in learning more about brotherhood life and the call to live single for
beginning the Servants of the Word has actively supported other men and
women living single for the Lord, including the Brotherhood of Hope and
Bethany Association for women living single for the Lord in the Sword of