Category Archives: New Monasticism

What sort of Church will emerge to engage with the challenge of a post-Christian world?

On Sunday 15th March 2009, I joined a recorded discussion in Sydney exploring the above title on Australia’s ABC National Radio. In the discussions, the group explored the importance of Emerging and Fresh Expressions of Church engagement with our increasingly post-christian post-secular culture. For a link to the radio show click here

Reflections after speaking at Melbourne

Speaking in Melbourne
Well I have just finished four days of speaking in Melbourne, and I have to say it was a privilege. I hope that the talks and presentations will enable some real experimentation and permission giving to create risk. There is real potential here in Melbourne, as long as people go for it.

Everywhere I go, I always find it such a surprise, that people really are surprised about the Trinitarian & Mystical Communion basis to the Anglican Church. There is a lot of fear, that I pick up. Fear of the rise of fundamentalism at one end of the church, and withdrawal from the world at the other. I hope that the talks I have done will promote re-engagement – an incarnational approach to mission and evangelism. So we will see what happens. But thanks Melbourne Diocese, I have really benefited from your inclusion of me in your training plan this year.

Reflections following the Catholic & Sacramental Anglican Consultation in Melbourne

I really enjoyed the consultation day today with senior clergy from around the Diocese exploring the development of emerging and fresh expressions of church.  It seemed to me to be an issue of encouragement and vision, given how this tradition has much to offer the more post-secular elements centred on spiritual tourism.  So we discussed what is going on in context with spiritual tourism, a Trinitarian Ecclesiology and Missiology, and models of church such as New Monasticism as a form that can live this out.  

But, as usual, the issue remains about how to focus on being and doing post-Christendom activities in a church and structure that still is very Christendom.  I was really impressed by Bishop Stephen of the Eastern Region, who is seeking to give real encouragement for experimentation, and helping sacramental Anglicans to explore a post-Christendom form of mission and ministry centred on apostolic creative activity.

I hope today catalyses activity and collaborative ministry amongst this very capable constituency.  But it requires risk taking and experimentation.

Off on the 3rd book & speaking tour

Well, its been a while since I have done this, but I am now looking forward to going back to Australia and New Zealand.  This will be probably the most complex and challenging speaking tour I have done yet.  Most will be exploring the challenge of new ways of being church for various denominations, and some exploring specifically alternative worship, forms of emerging church and my new focus, new monasticism.  So it does tie into my books, just the most varied groups of people I will have worked with yet.  

These trips always help me to go deeper with the subjects that we explore together, and hope this year will help me in my writing of a new book on new monasticism I am writing for Paraclete Press, which is a real privilege.  

So I will keep blogging here what I am up to, do check out the speaking tab if you are interested in attending elements of the tour, or to see what I am up to.  So goodbye Blighty until April…

New book: Ancient Faith Future Mission – fresh expressions of the sacramental traditions

I am really pleased that this new book that I helped to organise, has come together. Its content includes chapters by Rowan Williams, Abbot Stuart Burns, Brian McLaren, Karen Ward, Phyllis Tickle, Sue Wallace, Ian Adams and others on the whole area of developing sacramental emerging & fresh expressions of church. You can preorder it now from Amazon or Canterbury Press.

I am hoping this book will help people reimagine ways of exploring sacramentality in new ways of being church.  The book includes the address of Rowan Williams and the reflection of Abbot Stuart Burns at the recent Fresh Expressions of Church Pilgrimage to Coventry Cathedral on the 8th December 2008.  So this will be a good read, promise!

surveying spirituality

I and the Moot Community have been conducting a little survey to explore what people’s perceptions of spirituality are, who reach my blog or the moot sites. So please do help us by adding your thoughts.

Rhizomes and radical love

I have been again, reflecting on the work of Barry Taylor, and his excellent book, Entertainment theology. In particular are a couple of quotes from page 32, that have hit me:

Subversive activity of loving one another, welcoming the stranger, sharing goods in common and returning good for evil… The sermon on the mount isn’t just an ideal vision of a new society.  It is a sustainable way of life for those who live by faith.

Rhizomes reflect this kingdom of God … they were trying to remember what it meant to practice works of mercy, to follow the church’s social teachings, to be God’s peculiar people in the world.

I love all of this…. a return to a more organic understanding of Christianity being about a spirituality concerned with ‘how we should love’ and less about control, or who is in and who is out.  Its focus is orthopraxis and away from the obsessions of orthodoxy.  The image of rhizomes is a great one, organic, un-controllable, invisible but emerging, these characteristics really do tally with the idea of the now but not fully here Kingdom of God.

This connects with some of my thinking around new-monasticism, this focus on radical hospitality and forms of church that arise by the spirit, a catching up with what God is already doing, is close to my heart.

The importance of Contemplation in Mission

I have just written a joint article with Ian Adams in a really exciting multi-authored book entitled ‘Ancient Faith Future Mission’ to be published by Canterbury Press after Christmas, which include pieces by Rowan Williams, Steve Croft, Phyllis Tickle, Brian McLaren and Karen Ward to name but a few.  In it Ian and I explore ‘New Monasticism’ as expressed in some its Emerging Church forms.

I ahve been reminded how this refound approach is dependent on forms of contemplative prayer and contemplative awareness.  Marie Macarthy wrote a seminal chapter on contemplative awareness with the title ‘A spirituality for the twenty first century’ in Blackwell’s Reader in Pastoral & Practical Theology.  This text made a deep impression on me when I read it five years ago, and has stayed with me ever since.

Not only does Contemplation offer forms of spirituality that ‘work’, which opens up the Christian tradition to spiritual tourists, it also enables Christian communities to practices ‘action-reflection’, in seeking God in contemplation, to discern the hand of God in the world, and then to follow it.  In this way prayer and contemplation are a key resource for positive action and radical hospitality in the world.  We forget at our peril the need for a deeply sustaining spiritual life, of a relational aspect to the faith.  It is no coincidence that Martin Luther King, Dietrick Bonhoeffer, Mother Theresa, and many more of the great movers and shakers spent much time in prayerful reflection to resource their mission and calling.

To be able to engage with the world, we need to be fully engaged in developing a spirituality that draws on the strengths of prayer and contemplation.

Renewal through New Monastics

I have been thinking a lot about two quotes this week.  The first from Bonhoeffer on some words he wrote from a prison cell about how he saw a lay movement of new monastics as being a form of church for the modern world.  The second, is a quote about how those drawing on a contemplative approach to life, can be fully engaged with the complexity of the modern world to seek to bring renewal and justice:

“The renewal of the Church will come from a new type of monasticism which has only in common with the old an uncompromising allegience to the sermon on the mount.  It’s high time women and men banded together to do this.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in a letter to his brother

“The achievement of divine simplicity implies not the annihilation of the complex world but its illumination and transfiguration, its integration in a higher unity. This will involve the appearance of a new type of saint who will take upon himself the burden of the complex world.”
Nicholas Berdyaev, Spirit and Reality, Bles, 1939, p.98

Now the words illuminating culture and transfiguring culture keep coming up.  In the West, the idea of God transfiguring culture or transfiguring anything is not really a well known concept.  But in the Eastern Church, the transfiguration is an important high note in the ministry of Jesus, where Jesus’s involvement in the world as a human, following his vocation, leads to a moment of transfguration, of change, and a moment of divine exposure and presence – an event of change and revealing…

The implications of holding these two quotes together, is the implication – that as we seek to pattern a Christian spirituality deeply involved in the world as community, then what we do, and our seeking God profoundly, seeking to life in a way modelled by christ, then our hope is that God will bring change and the presence of God, through tranfigured moments…

I need to think more about this idea of transfiguring…

BBC Radio Ulster Feature on New Monasticism

Radio Ulster

Mark McCleary of the Moot Community, who assisted  me on the last speaking tour in Vancouver and Seattle, completed this interesting little report on New Monasticism for Radio Ulster.  It includes interviews with Karen Ward, myself and other members of the Church of the Apostles Community in Seattle.

Moot and Church of the Apostles are sister Anglimergent new monastic communities

To listen to the report, click here

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