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: New Monasticism
We live in tough times, made even harder by the current viral pandemic. If you like me struggle a bit with anxiety and getting overwhelmed, then I commend this form of contemplative prayer. It’s approach of focusing on emotions, the body and surrendering elements of your life to God a powerful combination of embodied meditation and prayer that bring spiritual relief, wellbeing and deep connection to and with God. I highly commend this, so please do see the audio below and the attached doc in words.
If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed by what is going on, I recommend doing this form of prayer at least twice a day
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/
What is New Monasticism? 5: . A commitment to missional loving service as an individual and as an ecclesial community.
In this the fifth blog on the essentials of New Monasticism – we look at the element focused on loving service.
As New Monastic Communities draw on a mixed vocation of Monk and Friar, they hold onto contemplative prayer and missional loving service. This is why sometimes New Monastic communities are called ‘small missional communities’ as a particular focus on ‘prayerful action’.
So here loving action has a number of elements
– the alleviation of the suffering of the poor in sharing food, money and resources. Social and economic justice.
– hospitality in terms of friendship, kindness and human dignity.
– opening up the gospel in relational approaches to sharing the Good News of Jesús and the love of God.
– challenging injustice, oppression of people, the environment, other animals and the planet. Social, economic and ecological justice.
For those of us who are Anglican – this loving service is deeply tied into the Missio Dei – the mission of God or more accurately – Missio Trinitatis – the mission of the Trinity. Which is summarised as the marks of mission:
– To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
– To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
– To respond to human need by loving service
– To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation
– To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth
(Bonds of Affection-1984 ACC-6 p49, Mission in a Broken World-1990 ACC-8 p101)
It is vital then in an New Monastic Community that individuals are committed to mission and loving action just as much as they are committed to community and contemplative prayer. These need to be shared by the whole community and well as individual actions.
What is New Monasticism?
Following on from the last three blog posts, this blog attempts to explore what is New Monasticism regarding Spiritual Practices and Radical Community.
Spiritual practices in traditional religious communities relate to the vows the individual is expected to make – such as poverty, obedience, chastity and stability. These then relate to a Rhythm of prayer, work, rest, being community and aspects expressed as worship, community and loving service.
In New Monasticism spiritual practices or disciplines will relate to the seasonal vows or promises an individual is making together with others as an expression of the charism or calling of a particular community. There are therefore spiritual practices related to these vows. As said earlier these vows create a construct into which the individual grows and lives like a plant growing up a lattice. So in the Wellspring Community of which I am a part – these spiritual disciplines are:
– prayer and devotion
– learning and reconciliation
– service and hospitality
– work and wellbeing
Now each of these disciplines relates to a whole host of practices that the individual seeks to consider in a pattern that relates to them, and also in a pattern that reflects to daily and weekly flows of the community.
For example for prayer and devotion this includes a whole set of practices that need consideration…
Will you follow the way of Jesus Christ through the practice of prayer (in listening and in stillness; in silence and aloud; individually and in community; daily and within a weekly rhythm), and the practice of devotion (in meditation; in contemplation; in leading and participating in communal worship; and in the giving of time and resources)?
Now moving onto Radical Community. Being and doing human community is tough. We have all grown up in such an individualised, consumerist, commodified and egoic world, that makes mediating being a human community really difficult. It is true to say that we all as individuals bring our strengths, weaknesses and wounds. That is why in all the New Monastic communities I have been part of, everyone is expected to have their own external spiritual director and also therapist if needed, as there can be a danger that people play out their stuff in community. Community can lead to the best or the worst of us as individuals. This is why the fruits of the spirit are essential – kindness, gentleness, patience etc and also the need for humility and mutual vulnerability.
One innovation I think that is crucial are different spaces of belonging. There is need to mark different spaces for the spiritual journey. In traditional communities these are known as Aspirants, Novices, Professed. In New Monasticism I think we use some of this language – for Aspirants, Participants and Professed. All part of the New Monastic Communities but different spaces.
So coming back to what is community – this is where I am going to disagree with a lot I have seen. With so much of our culture minimising real community – community does mean I think the need for residential community – people actually living together and minimally people living dispersed but near by. In my community in Peckham there is a mixture of the two – but where we do want participants and the professed to love nearby and ideally with others.
So the internet website Facebook and all the rest are great reaching out into the world – but they can never be a real relational community because you don’t have to face your false self or your shadow side through a cyber connection… these are networks not a form of religious communities. I do believe New Monasticism needs to be localised if it is really committed to radical community that does worship, mission and community together. These communities are called to contemplative (or prayerful) action – prayer and service as real people in real contexts where all religious communities are called to serve the poor, the needy, the oppressed, the searching. These are all needed if there is an attempt to be an authentic and radical New Monastic Community.
What is New Monasticism?
Following in this series building on my two previous posts, I want now to make a case that a form of contemplative prayer is essential if this is really New Monasticism.
Whether you read the work of Shane Claiborne, and American New Monastics, or those coming out of the Catholic Worker Movement and liberation theology in South America or Europe, a recovery of contemplative prayer is for me, essential.
Contemplative Prayer is a commitment to a form of prayer that is about encountering God, and it starts with silence. There is nothing like silence to have to face who you are beyond the ego, pride, entertainment, immaturity, that forces you to face who you are, and an openness to encountering God on God’s terms. Prayer is so often dumbed down in todays world, where at its worst prayer is uploaded as God as heavenly counsellor who then downloads answers back to the individual. This is so utterly individualistic and consumerist it misses the point. Ultimately prayer is a medium of encounter with God. It is inherently mystical, uncontrollable, and other.
Too often I hear people say – I am an extrovert – contemplative prayer is not for me – because it is for introverts. This is just so wrong and a collusion with the shadow or false self (see the work of Richard Rohr and others on this subject). There are different forms of prayer, ones where we encounter God from nature, from mystical experience outside of ourselves, but importantly here, also encountering God from within ourselves, where God often speaks through the details of our lives. The bible often uses the language of the followers of Jesus as having ‘a temple of the Holy Spirit’ within them. This then requires us to seek God from within as well as without.
New Monastics I think therefore draw on different forms of contemplative prayer. For some more into mystical theology and a bit more catholic draw on the Benedictine, Franciscan and Ignatian. Others draw on a revitalised Celtic tradition of nature inspired Christian prayer, and others draw on more contemplative prayer coming out of the charismatic movement descovering spiritual practices. All these traditions draw on a similar root of contemplative prayer. Without this focus on getting beyond your thinking and feeling, the individual is too locked into their own self. True contemplative prayer seeks to get beyond this as part of a call to prayer as part of ‘Prayerful-Action’. This form of prayer is about seeking to catch up with what God is doing, and less about ego-consumptive gratification – the curse of so much of modern Christianity.
To be able to love God, love yourself and love your neigbour (Summary of the New Commandment of Jesus) each Christian needs a healthy, nourishing and sustaining form of Christian spirituality. This comes from study of the Bible, dialogue amongst Christians and importantly here – from Prayer.
In the ancient prayer traditions of the Church, there are two forms of prayer – the Via Positiva – the sense of the presence of God, and the Via negativa – the sense of the absence of God. When we encounter God, then this can lead to joy, warmth and that sense of contentment. But sometimes God feels very absent, which is hard and painful.
Some very unhelpful writers have said that pain is an aboration to the spiritual prayerful path. This I would say could not be further from the truth. Pain is part of the human condition, for us to grow in our spirituality from infancy through adolescence into maturity, minus the false self and ego, change is painful. Infact the mystics teach us, that without pain we would not change. This is the challenge of going deeper with the path of Jesus, and prayer is very much part of this process.
Given all of this, I am convinced that contemplative forms of prayer are not just desirable for new monasticism to be real and deep enough to sustain such a way of being s Christian disciple, I want to argue it is essential. Otherwise New Monasticism just becomes one more romantic fadism that had great promise, but did not deliver.
If New Monasticism is going to be focused on ‘contemplative action’ then it is essential that those who are activists don’t just act out of their own strongly held convictions, but God MUST be the source of the action. And equally that Prayer that does not lead to loving service, is again wrapped up in self-serving Christian spirituality, looses the DNA of Jesus who reminds us that he came in the very nature of a Servant.
So if there is no contemplative prayer, I want to argue its not new monastic, and it is therefore not following the path that leads right back to the Desert Mothers and Fathers who began Christian Monasticism on a focus on prayerful action in the deserts of Alexandria, Syria and Palestine.
What is New Monasticism?
Following the success of the convention weekend, please find below some of the outcomes and resources coming out of the 14-16th October 2016.
Feedback form for those attending the weekend
We are keen to hear your feedback ONLY FROM THOSE WHO ATTENDED, so please do complete the link to let us know what you thought and to help us plan for the next time here
Summary Report from the Facilitators for the questions and issues identified
Please find the link to the report presented on Sunday morning at the convention, which identifies key issues and questions that we in the network need to consider. closingsummaryreport
Results from the completed Questionnaire
The results from the questionnaire completed by attendees of the Convention can be found here.
Address from Phil Potter, Archbishop’s Missioner & Lead for Fresh Expressions & Bp Jonathan Clark, the Bp of Croydon.
Address from Phil Potter, Archbishops Missioner, philpotteraddress and link to Facebook Group that includes Video Recordings from Bp Jonathan Clark, the Facilitators reflections and the prayer and some of the times of prayer and worship sessions here.
Handouts for Stream 2
The link to download the handouts for the three sessions for Saturday in .pdf form click the link here. These are available also for anyone in Stream 1 who may find them helpful
Schedule and Menu for the Gathering/Conference
Please find linked here, a pdf of the current draft plan for the conference with details. We need people to attend all of this to maximise our time together, so click here for the conferencefacilitatorsplan participantlist conferencemenu
Group participation in Streams 1 and 2
For those already involved in NM groups you will be in Steam 1, and we have divided you into 3 dialogue groups A-C. For those who are interested in setting up a NM groups then you will be in Stream 2, and you will be in 6 working groups. Please download the following document for both Stream 1 and Stream 2 and note which room you are in for the Saturday: participantlist
Position Papers for the Conference to read before you come
1. Paper compiled by Ned Lunn (York) anunderstandingofreligiouslife
Papers from Previous Gatherings that are important
1. Renewal of the Religious Life by Etienne Veto, Lambeth Palace Gathering
2. New Monasticism and other new religious movements by Ian Mobsby (St Lukes) Chris Neal (CMS)(1)Acknowledged Religious Communities, Briefing Paper
3. Acknowledgment Process in the CofE
(2)The Advisory Council Acknowledgement Document
Menu for Lunch and Dinner for Fri & Sat
All here: conferencemenu
Relevant Book Resources UK Context
This weekend gathering in Southwark South London from Friday 14 to Sunday 16th October, is the first gathering of those involved in new monastic communities with some relationship to the Anglican and the Church of Scotland – coming from Wales, Scotland, Ireland, USA and England. The event has been facilitated by the working group of the New Monastic Network UK. Over the last couple of years, sponsored by the charitable group Anglican Religous Communities (ARC) have sponsored dialogue between the leaders of emerging and traditional religious communities. It was Archbishop Justin’s Chaplain Jo Bailey-Wells, now the Bishop of Dorking encouraged the need for a gathering for new monastics to talk to new monastics.
So at the weekend 90 representatives will engage in dialogue from communities such as the St Anselm Community in Lambeth Palace, the Iona and Northumbria Communities, as well as those small missional communities such as the St Lukes Community Peckham. Further, a number of people interested in starting new monastic communities will spend some time reflecting on what, how and why this can be done. We are very pleased that Phil Potter, the Archbishop’s Missioner and Leader for Fresh Expressions will be joining us on the Saturday, and Bishop Jonathan Clark, the Bishop of Croydon will be joining us on the Sunday.
This has been a dream coming together, and we look forward to catching up with what God is doing through this first gathering in the UK.
For more information on the New Monasticism Network UK See the Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1420721808180123/
In this podcast on Tuesday 13th September 2016, The Peckham Well New Monastic Community (of the parish of St Lukes Church) met with Hugo Adan Fernandez to explore Ignatian Spiritualty. Hugo became a Christian through the work of the Jesuits in the 1980s in the difficult times of Franko. Drawing on the life of St Ignatius, Hugo explores the implications of this particular approach to being Christian drawing on a contemplative life, that leads to contemplative action and liberation theology. Hugo unpacks the relationship of Ignatian spirituality regarding contemplation and meditation and listening to God in the ordinariness of life, through moments of consolation and desolation.
You can subscribe to this podcast for free by iTunes by clicking here.