New monasticism - what is it?

Monday, 11 June, 2012

A selection of pioneers explore what new monasticism is all about and what it means to them.

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Mark Berry: New monasticism is a phrase I think that's been bandied around for quite a few years now. The idea really is small communities, perhaps intentionally small communities, intentional because smallness leads to a level of intimacy and honesty and openness which perhaps is harder once you get bigger. So in the ways that monastic communities of the past would come together to pray, to grow together, to hold each other accountable to their vision and to their spirituality, but with a real sense that they were there to serve - and that's part of I think the vision of safespace, to be who we are for the place that God has called us to be in.

Ian Adams: I think what's being called a new monasticism is resonating with culture at the moment because it has an authenticity to it.

Jonny Baker: I think there are lots of treasures in the tradition that kind of people seem to pull out of the cupboard or wherever they come from at different times and so I'm fascinated by the interest in monasticism. I mean I actually think that the last thing we need is a load of people going round saying they're monks, I think people might just find that weird, who knows, but I think yeah - a number of treasures. Obviously there's the particular approach to community life, there's a lot of wisdom in that, we've learned in Grace particularly about ethos being at the heart of community life and that leadership in monastic communities is around guarding ethos, hold-calling a community to those values. So, you know, our values are around creativity, participation, risk and engagement. It's a gentle thing but having that ethos, you know, calls us to the 'how am I engaging' and so on, so that's like a little treasure I suppose that we've discovered.

Ian Adams: I don't want to romanticise it at all, the monastic way is not a romantic thing it's a tough calling, but there's something very powerful and beautiful and strong about the monastic life, about this commitment to search for God, to be open to God and to love the world in God's name.

Jonny Baker: There are two kinds of monasticism broadly speaking. One would be a kind of cloistered thing, so, you know, you've got residential communities who have a very stable way of life and prayer and often they're serving the community in particular ways. But actually there are other monastic communities, and particularly I suppose the Jesuits and Franciscans maybe and the Black Friars - there's a whole number of them - but the kind of monasticism they have is not about gathering in the same residence, it's about a commitment to a particular type of ministry that's lived out in the world: to evangelise, to share the gospel with people.

Ian Adams: The monastics teach us that the following of Christ is a life of practice, so it's not just a set of beliefs that we take on, it's not just - dare I say - turning up somewhere on a Sunday, but actually it's a life lived, shaped by Christ, loving God, searching for God and loving the world in his name.

Jonny Baker: Try and create some kind of rule or rhythm or set of practices together so that what you're committed to - so that you are called to that prophetic, evangelistic ministry. So yeah, and I've begun to think in terms of fresh expressions that the mixed economy of church, as well as being about reaching different groups of people and different styles of church and so on, actually there's something really powerful about thinking about mixed economy as, if you like, the pastor-teacher, parish, local, gathered, congregational thing and this prophetic, evangelistic, monastic thing. That's a very different way of thinking mixed economy I think and I suppose I'd like to push into that a bit more.


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