(An Interview with Brother Will)
I recently spent 3 days and 2 nights at Mount Calvary Monastery on top of a mountain over-looking Santa Barbara to get some much needed rest. This is a Benedictine Monastery and the “Brothers” are of “The Order of the Holy Cross” which numbers about 40 men who live in various homes in the U.S. and Canada. Their Order is an offshoot of the Episcopal church.
I interviewed Brother William (Will) Brown, a very polite and engaging 80 year-old Englishman:
(Comments in brackets [ ], are when I put down my pen and recalled from memory.)
Steve: How did you become a monk?
Will: I grew up in a Methodist family in England where we lived in a rowhouse. My sisters’ peers were Anglo-Catholics who would do research for their college papers by visiting an active monastery in Northern England. They were always so beautiful. My Dad would always say, “Those monks always knew where to live.” Always in the back of my mind, I thought about the monastic life.
I had become an Episcopalian at age thirty. I met a monk after church and asked to visit the monastery where he lived. I visited it many times. At age fifty I entered the monastic life.
S: You said you were single for fifty years, was there a reason?
W: Yes. I’m a gay man.
S: You’re gay, but celibate?
S: Why the radical change in lifestyle?
W: I didn’t see it as radical. I didn’t have a partner. The radical thing was living in community. Community life attracted me.
W: I was attracted to the life of prayer. The monastery, I thought, was a powerhouse of prayer.
S: In the community, do you live separate lives? Do you hang out with each other?
W: Naturally, we enjoy some people more than others. The community is very supportive. I’m also in A.A., so if I feel like a drink the community says I shouldn’t do that.
(I explained that many members of Hope Chapel have come out of A.A. and that I too came out of a drug-addicted background.)
W: How does your church react to gay people?
S: Well, we preach a gospel of repentance. [To believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you must repent and follow Him. We have all types of people who come to our church, from many different backgrounds. Some might look at you and judge harshly. Others would be more patient and gracious…]
W: The same thing can happen here too…
S: [We’re just people. People forgiven of our sin, all different types. But it is important to turn your life over to Jesus and repent.] Have you repented from being gay?
W: No. I was born that way.
S: How do you see God and how does He punish sin?
W: We punish ourselves, really. Straying from God is our own punishment. The Old Testament God, sometimes, is a God of wrath but Jesus brings a New Covenant. What I mean by that, I’m not sure. I’m not a theologian, I’m a horticulturist.
S: What do you use as your spiritual source?
W: The Bible of course. We go to church five times a day. “Vigils,” which means “early morning,” is at 6:15am; “Lauds,” which means “praise,” is at 7:30am; The Eucharist is at noon; 5:00pm is “Vespers,” which is our evening prayer; and “Compline” is at 8pm. Our rules require us to have an hour of meditation. Rules govern our way of life.
S: Do you believe in Heaven and Hell?
W: Yes, I believe so. I have a greater belief in in heaven.
S: Jesus talks a lot about hell…
W: Yes. I like the Lazarus story.
S: Who goes to Hell?
W: I really don’t know. I think we can create our own hell. We can be separated from God.
S: How do we get separated from God?
W: By not listening to God; listening for direction. I do believe God can direct us. We have to be in tune with God to receive that direction.
S: Is everyone going to heaven?
W: I really don’t know.
S: How do we get there?
W: Some from good works. Some, prayer. I can’t quote the Bible very much, but I like Matthew 25, where it says, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink…” We really don’t know. Do you?
S: Yes. I take the Bible literally where it’s meant to be taken literally. [Those who have believed in Jesus as payment for their sins; that He was buried and rose again; and if they repent of their sins and follow Him, then they will go to heaven. God then takes His righteousness and gives it to us. It’s like He takes sunglasses with Jesus painted on them and instead of seeing you, Will, He sees Jesus. You are perfect in God’s eyes only then. Now down here -horizontally- we know we’re not. We get to go to heaven because of what Jesus has done. It’s all about Him.]
(I then opened my Bible and turned to 1Corinthians 6:9-10 and read it to Will) [This is what Paul wrote when talking about who would or wouldn’t go to heaven]:
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
[Heck, listen to what Jesus said. We’re all guilty of this:]
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”
[You can see that this includes everybody.] Haven’t you ever had a guy up here like me to tell you this?
W: (With a big smile) No. No. I find it quite refreshing.
S: Thank-you Will.
W: Oh, thank-you.