For the most part, monks visiting or residing at Emery House by the banks of the Merrimack River adhere to their vows of silence, preferring to gaze upon God’s creation and listen rather than speak.
But yesterday, Society of St. John the Evangelist monks had plenty to say as they welcomed hundreds of people to the Emery Lane compound as part of its first open house in several years. About a half dozen members of the SSJE were scattered throughout the extensive grounds to give the curious informal tours of the 18th century main house, its modern chapel and its 140 acres of land.
“A place of peace and something of a sanctuary, really,” Brother Geoffrey Tristram, the society’s superior, said.
The West Newbury Emery House, located right over the Newburyport border off Route 113, serves as a retreat for SSJE monks, most living at the main monastery near Harvard Square, Cambridge. It is bounded by the Merrimack and Artichoke rivers and is adjacent to Maudslay State Park’s 600 acres. Founded in 1866 in Oxford, England, the SSJE is a monastic community of the Episcopal Church. Brothers are required to make vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience.
Guests are welcome to spend a day, weekends or longer with the monks at their retreat having the opportunity to stay in modern one-bed cottages that the monks call hermitages. Typically, guests come to revel in the quiet and will often join the brothers in prayer inside the Chapel of the Transfiguration.
“A time to be still, to rest, to be refreshed,” Tristram said.
Unlike the more introspective Cambridge chapel, with its stained glass windows, massive columns and overall darkness, the Chapel of the Transfiguration is minimalistic in design. With expansive clear windows, worshipers are bathed in light and pray while gazing upon breathtaking views of the river and the grounds.