New monasticism comes of age…

The concept of a new kind of monastic community has fascinated me.

Perhaps because I lack discipline in life, and so practising a deliberate spiritual rhythm has seemed both extremely attractive but rather out of reach.

New monasticism has gathered interest as a rather trendy form of church community- growing on the edge of ’emerging’ stuff. It has links with the 24-7 prayer movement, as well (of course) as much older traditions. It has a radical edge that is also attractive to me.

Today- driving back from Lochgilphead in the darkness after a long meeting- I tuned to radio 4, and caught the end of ‘beyond belief’, which included interviews with a member of Moot, and a general discussion about- new monastic communities. It was a searching discussion, which asked some important questions about the nature of monastic life, and whether this new monastic stuff really involved the same amount of ‘giving up’ and setting out on a real path of self sacrifice. Commitment is not for life- but for a season. Perhaps until the inevitable small group conflict begin! You can listen again on the i player- here.

It is also clear that some of the new communities do not seem to regard themselves as standing in the same tradition as the old monastic way of being- but rather seeking a deeper life (not necessarily overtly Christian.)

It is worth checking out the interview on the Moot site with Shane Claiborne.

I see there is a new Ning site- New Monasticism Network.

My own small community is in the process of chewing over what we mean by ‘community’.  We are going through what I can only describe as a 4 year barrier- when we are having to look to re-examine ourselves. It has been painful and challenging, if necessary. New labels and concepts are not for us at the moment- rather we just need to remember to practice the disciplines of friendship and love.

Because the formation of any small community, as previously discussed, can be a process of such incredible highs, and such terrible lows. Jonny Baker pointed out these posts by Ian Adams. I really liked what he had to say, which seemed loaded with wisdom- and I suspect, hard experience!

In any community there will be always be a lot of focus on what we do. That’s fine – the actions of the community, its surface life – are important. But behind the activity is something less obvious, more subtle, and perhaps even more important. This is what I think of as the spirit of the community.

Almost every family, project, team, society or business has a spirit or value system, often unrecognised, and sometimes less than positive. Gracious or greedy, caring or care-less, transparent or manipulative [or a mix of those] – the spirit of a community is how it feels to encounter it – and the spirit of thing has the power to create something beautiful – or to trash it.

Because these small groups of ours- they are very fragile. They need loving and nurturing. Sometimes we just want to walk away- and perhaps there is a time to do just that. But they also offer such hope and life.

So, whatever your label, may you find friends and fellow pilgrims to travel with. It is the Jesus way…