Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Alice from the Brady Bunch - a New Monastic!

Like virtually every other child growing up in the 1970s, I watched "The Brady Bunch" on TV.  Most of the attention on the show was on the Brady family, but the loyal housekeeper, Alice, was always there, ready to help.  As you may have read in the news, the woman who played the role of "Alice", Ann B. Davis, recently died at the age of 88.

Since her death, I have learned that in her post-"Brady Bunch" years, she lived something like a "new monastic" life in the Episcopal Church.  "New monasticism" is a term which has been thrown around the past few decades to describe a quasi-monastic renewal in the Church.  Many decades ago, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about the need for a new kind of monasticism in the life of the Church: “The restoration of the church will surely come only from a new type of monasticism which has nothing in common with the old but a complete lack of compromise in a life lived in accordance with the Sermon on the Mount in the discipleship of Christ." 
"New monasticism" has taken various shapes, but it is primarily a movement among the Christian laity.  The typical focus is on service to the poor, and while the rules of the traditional monastic orders do not apply, the "new monastic" movement also involves groups of people coming together to pray.

How does Ann B. Davis fit into this movement?  A "People" magazine article from 1977 (shortly after the end of the "Brady Bunch") stated:

"Ann B. Davis, the wisecracking housekeeper of TV’s Brady Bunch, has joined a new bunch—a religious commune in Denver. At 51, Davis, who also played Schultzy on the ’50s Bob Cummings Show, gets her Rocky Mountain highs with 6:30 a.m. Bible study. “I was tired of show business—tired of running around with my head cut off,” she says. Born an Episcopalian, Davis practiced her faith but “with little understanding of it.” She often found herself alone with a drink after a hard day of rehearsing or during layoffs between series. In 1974 when she was playing summer stock in Denver she met Episcopal Bishop William C. Frey and his family, who were planning to bring together several families under one Christian roof. “I decided to sell my house in L.A. and yield control to the Lord,” the unmarried Davis says. She and 19 others, aged 3 months to 69 years, now occupy a remodeled Victorian home." http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk/2014/06/ann-b-davis-aka-alice-from-the-brady-bunch-left-hollywood-for-faith-i-was-born-again/

 In 1994, she described her new life in an interview given to the Orlando Sentinel:

"For the next several years, she spent most of her time, three or four days a week, giving (her) Christian testimony. It was very exciting, while also doing laundry at a homeless shelter. She didnt work except to perform in an occasional Brady Bunch special or television commercial. Three years ago, she moved with Frey and his wife to Ambridge, Pa., near a seminary. She began working in theater again. These days Davis spends free time 'stuffing my head with wonderful things', such as courses in church history, the Old Testament and gender roles in history at the Episcopal School for Ministry."  http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1994-02-06/news/9402030951_1_brady-bunch-brady-family-christian-testimony

While I obviously have a certain fondness for traditional monasticism, as set forth in the Rule of St. Benedict, the "new monasticism" spoken of by Bonhoeffer, and exemplified by Ann B. Davis, may have a vital role in the renewal of the Church.  So, thanks be to God for Ann, and for all who are setting an example for the rest of us who are struggling to follow the way of Christ in our new, post-Christendom, world.


  1. Thanks for your post in memory of Ann B. Davis. And thanks for noting the link to modern forms of monasticism. As a long time Oblate of St. Benedict, affiliated with St. John's Abbey, Collegeville, MN I appreciate that. And, as one who bills himself as, "Lutheran Iconographer" on my own blog keithhomstadicons.blogspot.com I really like your background on this page!

  2. Keith - thanks for your reply. St. John's Abbey is on my list of places to go to someday. Also, thanks for the link to your website - God has given you the gift to write beautiful icons. It is good to know that there are other Lutheran pastors out there who embrace monasticism, iconography, and the like, since I feel out of place, sometimes.