At first, I had decided to not take part in this synchroblog for two reasons: 1) I know very little about monasticism or new monasticism, and 2) The synchroblog would fall right in the middle of my series on early church meetings. However, I decided to take part in the synchroblog on monasticism for two reasons: 1) This post gave me a chance to investigate new monasticism and to link to other bloggers who know much more about (and even practice) new monasticism, and 2) Monasticism started in the early church, so this post actually fits well with my series on early church meetings.
New monasticism, or neomonasticism, is usually associated with emerging or missional groups of followers of Jesus. New monasticism demonstrates itself in many different ways. According to the wikipedia article, the most common principles among new monastic communities are:
- Thoughtful, prayerful, and contemplative lives.
- Communal life (expressed in a variety of ways depending on the community).
- A focus on hospitality.
- Practical engagement with the poor.
These “common principles” are scriptural principles which are specifically demonstrated by the early church in the first few chapters of the book of Acts. The main concern of new monasticism (like “old” monasticism) is that a monastic community can become inclusive. Of course, this is a concern for any type of community, whether that community is monastic or not.
However, “new monasticism” is not the same as “monasticism”. There is a new book by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove called New Monasticism: What it has to say to today’s church. The publisher’s note for this book reads as follows:
New Monasticism is a growing movement of committed Christians who are recovering the radical discipleship of monasticism and unearthing a fresh expression of Christianity in America. However, the movement doesn’t mirror traditional monasteries – many members are married with children and have careers, yet they live differently, often in community in once-abandoned sections of society.
Even more interesting is the publisher’s note about the author:
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (MDiv, Duke University Divinity School) is a leader of the New Monastic movement and cofounded the Rutba House community in Durham, North Carolina. An associate minister at St. Johns Baptist Church in Durham, he is also the coordinator of the School for Conversion, a partnership among New Monastic communities for alternative theological education.
So, this book is not a theoretical work or an ideal description of what could be. Instead, it is written by someone with a theological education who is also living in a new monastic community.
A couple of years ago, when we were looking for a house, we started looking near some friends. With other friends were looking for a new house, they started looking near us and other friends. Why? Because we understand the importance of proximity in building community. Of course, proximity is not everything, but it does help. Currently, there are several friends with whom we share our lives very closely. We see each other several times a week, spend time in one another’s homes, take care of one another’s children, laugh with, cry with, learn with, and grow with one another. Whether this is on the fringes of new monasticism or not, I do not know. But I do know that it seems to be heading in the direction of biblical fellowship.
A brother of a friend is contemplating moving to California in order to live in a neighborhood with other believers. This new type of “neighborhood abbey” is very attractive to me. I think that living in close proximity to other believers who are trying to live in community in Jesus Christ would be very beneficial. As the wikipedia article states, living in close proximity would aid in living a contemplative life, sharing with others, practicing hospitality, and helping the poor close to the neighborhood.
In the same way, I would also have a concern about living in proximity with other believers and only sharing our lives with those close to us geographically. It would be easy to spend all of my time with those believing friends, which would tend to cut me off from other people – those who most need to see and experience the affect of the gospel on a family’s life. Thus, the community would have to be intentional at reaching out to those outside the community, and encouraging others in the community to reach out beyond the community.
Like I said, I know very little about new monasticism. But, I have enjoyed the research so far. I’m also looking forward to reading more posts about monasticism and new monasticism.
The March Synchroblog is on the topic of Monasticism. Below are links to other bloggers who are discussing monoasticism and new monasticism:
Phil Wyman at Phil Wyman’s Square No More
Beth at Until Translucent
Adam Gonnerman at Igneous Quill
Steve Hayes at Notes from the Underground
Jonathan Brink at JonathanBrink.com
Sally Coleman at Eternal Echoes
Bryan Riley at Charis Shalom
Cobus van Wyngaard at My Contemplations
Mike Bursell at Mike’s Musings
David Fisher at Cosmic Collisions
Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church
Sam Norton at Elizaphanian
Erin Word at Decompressing Faith
Sonja Andrews at Calacirian