To give people the heads up, I will be running two online courses on New Monasticism starting in September, the first I am facilitating on my own which is a 4 week introduction to a more contemplative and missional understanding of New Monastic Community, and the second is a course for people wanting to set up New Monastic Communities which I will be leading with MarK Berry of the Safe Space Community. So see below details for the Intro course and please do send this onto anyone else who may be interested. Intrigued and what to know more about contemplative and missional new monasticism?? Why not try out this short online course I am leading. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/intro-course-to-new-monastic-missional-communities-by-ian-mobsby-tickets-115539526835
Category Archives: Mission
We the Western Missional Church needs to learn from the ways and practices of the persecuted Church of the Middle East
You many not know, but one of the greatest growing Christian contemplative expressions of Church is in Iran and Iraq. They meet to pray, but have no buildings, no visibility, no formalised leaders but are deeply oppressed where their lives are often at threat, and also at risk of rape by the secret police – both the men and the women.
Their model is a radical openness to the Holy Spirit, to be obedient to the Gospels, where there is a deep relational commitment to be brother and sister Christians, but how they wait and hold back and wait for others to ask religious questions. The focus then is on living the Christian faith – discipleship – not evangelistic events or the approaches we use in the west which just don’t work. For them this is high risk, where they have no religious freedom and oppressed by the threatening domination system.
What can we learn from this?
Clearly at the moment we are not persecuted, but I do believe we are struggling in the west with a massive negative stereotype concerning Christianity and the church which is still too connected to establishment and privilege – and culturally is seen and treated in a way that is not far from forms of prejudice that can easily grow into forms of persecution.
The persecution in the persecuted church allow each of the individual to grow spiritually to have the maturity to cope with oppression but open to God doing things and working miracles that comes from prayer and being an underground network family.
In my new context, Christchurch Southwark, we are struggling because the area is I think sanitised by the market society which isolates the rich and dehumanises and marginalises the poor and vulnerable where our worth is measured against economic or commodified value. So the question is how to we relate to this type of society where many are not free and struggling and not open to Christianity, largely because they have never seen it lived. Living it is critical so people can experience Christians and how faith and spirituality has transformed their life. Only by being an example can we be effective with mission and hence Jesus” teachings and the new commandment and the Lord’s Prayer as a way of life. So this is what we need to learn, and we have got lazy in the west, because we don’t have to fight for the right to express our faith. I am struck by the approach in Iran and Iraq and China because they developed a movement, being able to use forms of relational ministry and do food ministry, friendship and soul friends so we put the focus on living it, and learning to live it better together. If you get a chance see the Youtube clips of sheep amongst wolves. It is cheesy in places and some of its theology is not where I am at, yet I believe the focus on living it guided by God builds mature disciples – I think is helping me to think what I need to get going at Christchurch..,..
Pleased to be able to say that I have finally moved from Peckham to Southwark SE1 to an ancient parish of Christchurch Southwark, with the aims of revitalising an ancient church with a contemplative focus to being an ecclesial community with a focus on mission being contemplative action. I hope to found a residential new monastic community in the parish, and instigate a focus on Christian spirituality for those who live and work in the area.
For more information see Christchurch Southwark on Facebook see: https://www.facebook.com/chrisdtchurchsouthwark/
Prophets, by their very nature, cannot be at the center of any social structure. Rather, they are “on the edge of the inside.”
I have just spent 4 fantastic days at the Hui Mission & Theology Conference hosted by Church Mission Society at Ripon College Cuddesdon Oxford. This was a gathering of practitioners, theologians and educators, and it was a wonderful opportunity for mutual learning and encouragement.
Personally, it was a breath of a fresh air, being amongst people with a similar form of vocation across Europe, and I loved it.
I have been struck by the call for such ministries to be prophetic, and in Richard Rohrs reflections this week, there has been a whole focus on the role of prophets, and the challenge it is for those whose vocation touches this calling and how has it is to be part of any organisational structure. Prophets are called to hack the system for its own flourishing, an important function of both pioneering and fresh expressions of church.
So now we enter into the 6 weeks season of the resurrection as Easter, and I think we don’t focus enough on ways of engaging with the season after the intensity of Lent, the Passion and Holy Week.
One way to keep focused on the spirituality of the season of the resurrection is by keeping Stations of the Resurrection in the life of the ecclesial community: a good example is here.
And so we start to reach the climax of Holy Week as we enter into Maundy Thursday when we remember Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, gathering the disciples together in the upper room for the Last Supper, and the torment of his praying and betrayal by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Jesus as Messiah is birthing in these actions the Church in the context of the Kingdom of God he has been talking about up to this point. He washes their feet as a sign that they will be Apostles of the new Church. Jesus, in gathering the disciples, performs of the feast of the new Ecclesial Community, the Church, in the first Holy Communion, Eucharist or Mass depending on your tradition. In doing so he not only births the Church but also, through the Holy Spirit enacts a reconnection where people and the persons of the Trinity are brought close through the actions of Jesus. But even in this wonderful moment of the beginning of the Church, not that the disciples knew it was the beginning of the Church, there is also a spirit of anger of betrayal as Judas feels such disappointment in what he believes is a failed leader, and goes off to begin the betrayal.
In Jesus’ prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane, we encounter Jesus in a dark place, the inner conflict between Human and God must have been intense – and we know this because Jesus sweated blood – a biological sign of extreme distress. And so Jesus there experiences the pain of so many humans then and now who are in places of despair and no hope. Jesus the human is sorely tempted not to enter into Tridium – the three days when Jesus will suffer, be crucified and then the paradox of part of God being dead for 3 days. So we remember the great sacrifice that Jesus makes on our behalf, and for the salvation of the world, which even now in the 21st Century doesn’t understand or accept the greatest gift someone can give you – life through their own suffering.
So today we begin the great humiliation of God, where the institutions of the Temple and the Roman Empire think they are winning – because they to still believe in the myth of violence as a way to control and win. They do not realise the Jesus had a different agenda, the way of the Cross, the way of love, the way of redemption through love, not violence, and the gift of the Kin-dom of God and the beginning of the Church. There is no greater love than this, for someone to lay down their life for a friend… Amen.
Today the Church traditionally remembers Jesus being anointed with oil by Mary Magdelene with priceless oil which was highly criticised by Judas saying the item could have been sold and raised money for the poor, causing a spate between Judas and Jesus, where Jesus hints that he knows his time is short. So today is called Spy Wednesday, because of Judas’ decision to betray Jesus to the authorities, and was looking for an opportunity to do so at a time when there were less people to defend him.
Judas’ betrayal has always been a huge paradox to me – how could someone who knew Jesus so well go against a man he thought was the Messiah. The writers of some of the Gospels try to say that somehow Judas was overcome with evil, which is why his behaviour changed so much. Although I believe in evil, I do, like Walter Wink says, evil is manifested by human selfishness and violence. This being so, I think I understand Judas’ as being utterly disappointed with Jesus. His anger and betrayal are because Judas wants Jesus to be a different type of Messiah – more the muscular Christianity and physical type, to throw out the Romans and set up a Theocracy to dominate the world. So Jesus is a disappointment event to his disciples, and this speaks powerfully to us now in the 21st Century.
So often Jesus’ call to live according to love and the common good just does not make sense in such a competitive and violent world, where humanity is not valued and often commodified. So Jesus’ challenge is often seen as a weak force, too weak for many who want a warrior-Messiah. In so doing, they miss the subtlety of Jesus who is his own brand of Messiah. And it seems that Mary Magdelene is the only one to recognise this, again those who are marginalised and denigrated understand who Jesus really is.
Judas represents all forms of Christianity and the Church who assume Jesus is absent and has no power and so do the most terrible things in the name of Jesus and God. Christian fundamentalists being an obvious example. Mary Magdelene – is offered here as a good disciple and as we know later, was probably one of the founding disciples of the early Church before patriarchy denigrated alongside other key women disciples in the Early Church as the Church becomes infected with the DNA of the Roman Empire.
So today we remember humbly that Jesus comes as a Servant Messiah – not a Testosterone God and I for one are so grateful that Jesus is this type of Messiah, that brings real hope of change for the world through love.
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Monday in Holy Week, the day after Palm Sunday, is when Jesus returns to the temple after staying the night in Bethany, where he curses the Fig Tree and literally throws out the money changers in the Temple. Traditionally this is interpreted as Jesus asserting his Messianic authority and the importance of actual faith in practice, and not on religious privilege. We remember Jesus’ challenge to the Pharisees and Sadducees – that living the faith was important – not just relying on being God’s people – it needed the orientation of the heart and action rather than just in the head and not impacting on the way they were living. It is interesting that the moneychangers were in the outer courts assigned for people like me – the Gentiles. But at the same time, Jesus has compassion on the sick who gather around him after he throws out the market stalls.
What are we to make of this in Holy Week?
There is something here about Jesus challenging a purely market society when it denigrates God and the poor and needy, and boy is that an issue right now. The Poor, in particular, are treated like Lepers in our current culture – where often there is little compassion or support – even from some Christians! So Monday week is a reminder then to engage with the question how are we IN a modern culture but also NOT OF our modern culture. The balance of affirming what is God, and challenging that what distorts. Or Jesus puts it far better than I can – Give to Caesar what is Caesars and give to Gog what is Gods.
So as we enter Holy Week, think about your life, your priorities, your sense of where God is and calling you, to step up to what Jesus is saying here – around a practical outworking of the Christian life – not to exist out of a sense of privilege or even wealth, but the calling to follow Jesus as he demonstrates his Messiahship, after he has entered Jerusalem the first time on Palm Sunday, and comes the second day to challenge the Authority of the Temple and the power of the Market.
And so in the context of Jesus challenging the Powers of the Religious Temple and the power of the Market, we remember that Jesus anointed and healed those in need, as the new authority is centred on the Kingdom of God, or rather – the Kin-dom of God as a New Zealander friend once called it.
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Jesus does not come to fulfil the myth of redemptive violence, he comes to begin the Missio Ecclesiae and the Kingdom of the Common Good
It is poignant that as I encounter the shock of France of the senseless killing of ordinary French people killed for shopping at a Supermarket by an extremist religious fanatic bent on redemptive violence for a misreading of the Koran, it is poignant that the Christian Church remembers Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
The crowds were expecting Jesus to be a King, to bring in a new political theocracy by the sword, to throw our the Romans, and to get back to the idea of the Jewish people being special and better than anyone else. This was the common expectation of the Messiah.
But instead Jesus comes in powerlessness, all he can offer is the love of God, himself, this is all he brings and load of ex-fishermen and wasters from the disliked part of the country.
So Jesus hits head on with these expectations that continue to now. In many ways Jerusalem is still in exactly the same place it was when Jesus came – divided by hate, divided by religion, and divided by the violent politics of people who believe that the sword is the only way to effect change.
But actually Jesus comes with a different agenda, he comes with the idea of love, that God through the Holy Spirit begins the missio Ecclesiae, the mission of a new social order, the mission of the Kingdom, to build a society based on the common good, on common decency, on common opportunity, on the rebuilding of our common humanity – not to be exploited or oppressed by violence. But set free, as all are set free to be the fulfilment of love and goodness.
And so Jesus hits head on the Roman Empire, the Jewish Religious Establishment, the evil of the Crusades, and the violence of the World, and actually, Jesus is the only one that will continue – the rest will fall and fade – Jesus and his vision of the Loving Kingdom of God is the survivor.
So as the people welcome the King on Palm Sunday, they do not know what type of King they are acknowledging – even today much of the Church has no idea that Jesus stands against the myth of redemptive violence – and comes as the Prince of Peace as foretold at his Birth.
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So in this next series of posts, I want to engage with the question ‘why is new monasticism important’? Particularly when thinking about the state of the Church and the World and especially when thinking about Mission and Evangelism.
The greatest problem I think – is that people aren’t really living it and following the Christian faith – in that, we are called to live it out profoundly impacting our daily lives.
I think that in our current post-secular culture we are carrying the consequences of the violence to the faith as a consequence of modernity (period of time after pre-modernity impacting Europe from around the 15th Century onwards) and what has unhelpfully been called the ‘enlightenment’ when everything in culture was defined in relation to ‘truth’ as understood as the scientific method. Here faith then came about ‘thinking’ and ‘reason’ and ‘argument’ so that the more experiential and the essence of Christianity became a way of life modelled on following Jesus went into the background.
So even today – when people come to proclaim faith – or as in the Church of England more likely confirmation – then it is all about what you believe rather than how you live transformed by attempting to follow Jesus.
I think today Christianity has been largely commodified and now becoming or being Christian is relating to attending a worship service once a week and to do some form of 12-week induction course.
This seriously impoverishes the Christian faith and has limited depth. Unsurprisingly people are giving up on this commodified Christianity because it does not deeply resource you in the complexity of the modern world.
Instead what we need are examples of forms of the Christian Community that live out the Christian faith in depth – as a witness to the reality of God. Not because they are in anyway special – but more because real Christianity does not make sense if it is not LIVED.
This is why I believe so strongly in New Monasticism as a model of small missional communities, a form of fresh expression of Church, because it is one of the ways to focus on living the faith – not just talking about it – with a commitment to ‘prayerful or contemplative action’, to live a Rhythm of Life as a Community, where the focus then is on the New Commandment of Jesus – To Live God, learn to love ourselves to be able to love others and our neighbour. It is a form of missional community of ordinary people seeking to live counter-culturally and with a sense that none of life makes any sense if it is not about the context of a life following Jesus.
So my first argument here – is that we need profound Christian communities – living out the faith and not just talking about it – not getting sucked into institutionalised and stale expressions of the Church which have no life and too focused on thinking. And I believe that New Monasticism seeks to be this type of community because mission can’t be about beautiful media with beautiful people with glossy brochures and being cool – it is about the tough call to surrender to God your life, and to seek to follow a rhythm of life of prayer, of service, of study and of action – particularly as Jesus commanded – the poor and the stranger.
So if the Church is going to be effective in mission – we need living examples of doing this well – like Taize, the Northumbria Community and in many ways my own little New Monastic Community – the Wellspring Community in Peckham.
If there are no expressions of communities of deep faith – what then is mission and evangelism for? It can’t perpetuate the lie of a consumptive spiritual individualst journey that is numbing and I think ultimately does not take you to the depth of Jesus – real mission and evangelism has to occur for me on the back of examples of real Christianity being lived out profoundly as an example – to stand up to all the negative steriotypes of the Church, and to be an example of real Christianity in the eyes of some form of Conservative expressions of the Church which seem to have very little to do with Jesus’ example and teachings in the Gospels.
So my great hope is that New Monastic Communities become an example of a depth of Christianity because they are deeply LIVED by people who are less than perfect but yet are committed to the path of following Jesus as they stumble towards salvation rather any sense of earning it…
This is my hope … mission and evangelism make no sense if no one is really living the Christian faith in community by example.