Tag Archives: New Monasticism

What is New Monasticism? 3. The second key element: Contemplative Prayer

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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? 2. The first key element: Living to a Rhythm of Daily Life

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Traditional religious communities follow a rule of life which has elements of prayer & worship, work, rest, eating and so on. This has set times of prayer which can be as many as six to even eight set times a day. New Monastic communities hold onto this concept of a Rhythm of life which is less prescriptive about when but encourages the follower that there should be some form of Rhythm of work, prayer, rest, participation in community and loving service to others  – but this needs to relate to the personality, vocation and life situation of the individual. In this way New Monastic communities are like what are called ‘third order communities’ in that a Rhythm of life (ROL) is more tailored to the individual. However New Monastic communities commit to seasonal vows, promises and practices that are usually were written by a community together, and not like third orders who have a totally individual ROL that was written by an individual. These communal and shared seasonal vows tend to be committed to every year in New Monastic Communities.

Further the ROL of the communities will have certain charisms – values and understandings particulatly catered to the particular calling or vocation of the community. For example the community I am part of sees itself as specifically urban, also a learning community, and seeking to serve God in the context of Peckham.

Like traditional religious communities, New Nonastic communities structure their ROL around spiritual practices. In this way a ROL created a structure for an individual to thrive – like a plant growing into a lattice or frame to allow it to flourish. In this same way a ROL seeks to be a deep way of following the way of Jesús as seen in the Gospels, seeking to be faithfully to Jesús’s teaching to the disciples. In this way the structure of a ROL allows the follower to be open to the Holy Spirit in the context of life.  Not unlike the ability of musicians to be spontaneous in a Jazz Band.  The focus then of a ROL is to engage with the question ‘How should we live to be faithful to Jesús’?’ This then is a deeper question than ‘What should we believe?’ Because it is about application of belief to tie practice of living well.

Put another way the high point of the Gospels for religious communities is the New Commandment – To love God love yourself and love others as put by a former Benedictine Abbot. In this way New Monastics see a ROL as essentially a structure to promote:

1. Orthopathy – right feeling or being – wellbeing

2. Orthopraxis – right living

3. Orthodoxy – right thinking.

So a good ROL needs to include the head, heart and life…..

 

What is New Monasticism? 1. The four key elements 

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Many people have said they don’t get what New Monasticism is. I therefore thought it would be good to start to blog to explain how I think the term is being used.first thing to say is that I have never liked the term because it has caused so much confusion, however, for some reason those outside the Church do get it, so this is why o think the term has got used. The confusion I think is for those who have some form of churched experience, and therefore it is confusing and conjures up an idea of people being over pious and wearing mediaeval clothing – this is absolutely far from the church.

This being so I am going to define as simply as I can what it is:

1. A commitment to a Rhythm of Daily Life

2. A commitment to contemplative forms of prayer and meditation

3. A commitment to spiritual practices and radical community

4. A commitment to missional loving service as an individual and as an ecclesial community.

I will unpack each of these key elements before proceeding with exploring key elements.

 

Outcomes from the New Monasticism Conference October 2016

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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

2. Charism & institution: What defines a religious community by Tim Watson (Chemin Neuf)
RenewalinReligiousLifetalk 160409 Charism and institution

Papers from Previous Gatherings that are important

1. Renewal of the Religious Life by Etienne Veto, Lambeth Palace Gathering
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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

1. New Monastic Handbook by Ian Mobsby & Mark Berry

2. New Monasticism as Fresh Expressions of Church Eds Graham Cray, Aaron Kennedy & Ian Mobsby

3. Totally Devoted, the challenge of New Monasticism by Simon Cross 

4. Punk Monk by Pete Greig and Andy Freeman

5. Embracing Solitude: Women and New Monasticism by Bernadette Flanagan

6. Cave Refectory Road by Ian Adams

7. God Unknown, the Holy Spirit in contemporary spirituality and mission by Ian Mobsby

 

 

 

First Anglican UK New Monastic Convention

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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/

 

End of Over busyness and visit to Australia

Dear Friends.  First a big apology for blog silence.  We have been amazingly busy launching the whole new venture of the Moot Community at the Guild Church of St Mary Aldermary, and in particular, gearing ourselves up for the Lounge Project, an attempt to have an arts and spiritual and cafe space to promote wellbeing, right living and the Christian faith and spirituality.  Nothing like starting a big project in a world resession!!

So I am pleased to say I have the good fortune of going back to Australia to have a bit of a rest and catch up with friends, and do a bit of speaking and encouraging of emerging/fresh expressions/new monasticism.  I will post more about this when it is clearer… I will be in Oz from 23rd July to 4th Aug.

Really pleased to say that Moot will be doing 3 services at the Greenbelt Festival on Sat, Sun and Mon, and I will be speaking on one panel and one meditation and prayerful session in Soul Space on the Friday night.

New Book launches in Feb and March 2011

From the 1st of Feb we are entering the launching of the new book of which I am the Co-Editor New Monasticism as Fresh Expression of Church’ part of the Ancient Faith Future Mission Series.  So there are launch events on Tuesday (1st) in London UK and Thursday (3rd) in Manchester UK, and then 17th Canberra AUS.  This will be followed by launches on 17th March in Newcastle AUS and Melbourne 25th March in AUS.

It’s a great book, with chapters by:  Shane Claiborne (Simple Way Community), Andy Freeman (Reconcile Community Reading & 24-7 Prayer Community), Mark Berry (Safe Space Community), Diane Kershaw (Order of Mission), Ian Adams (CMS Small Missional Communities), Tessa Holland (Contemplative Fire), Tom SIne (Mustard Seeds), Bp Graham Cray (Archbishop’s Mission and Leader of Fresh Expressions Team (UK), Philip Roderick (Contemplative Fire), Pete Askew (Northumbria Community), Abbot Stuart Burns (Mucknell Abbey).

I think it makes a great second book in this important series.  We have started working on a third book in the series, which Aaron Kennedy (from the Moot Community) and I are editing with Graham Cray on the whole issue of Fresh Expressions and the Kingdom of God.

Multi-Authored New Book New Monasticism as Fresh Expressions of church

Really pleased that the new book New Monasticism as Fresh Expressions of the Church, second in the Ancient Faith Future Mission Series is now out and available. It’s a good read with a number of experienced authors in the UK and US that includes Andy Freeman from 24-7 Boiler Rooms and the Reading Reconcile Community, Ray Simpson from the Aidan and Hilda Community, Tom Sine from the Mustard Seeds House Seattle, Shane Claiborne from the Simple Way Community, Pete Askew from the Northumbria Community, Diana Kershaw from the Order of Mission, Philip Roderick and Tessa Holland from the Contemplative Fire Community, Mark Berry from the Safe Space Community in Telford, Bp Graham Cray the Archbishop’s Missioner and leader for Fresh Expressions and Abbot Stuart Burns, a leading UK Anglican Benedictine and I.  It’s a great read.

There are going to be a number of planned book launches in the UK, Australia and other places.  Ones planned so far are in London and Manchester in the first week of February.  For more information click here

Lecture on New Monasticism at Cramner Hall, Durham UK

I had fun last night and today hanging out with Michael and Rachael Volland in Durham, and then lecturing a gathering of methodist and anglican ordinands on the subject of New Monasticism.  This was also a mixture of those seeking traditional and pioneer vocations.  I talked of New Monasticism as a particular model of church based around small missional communities that draw on a Trinitarian mystical communion model.  I also talked of a Rhythm of Life as a key missional tool as it allows people to belong to work out if they believe and also focus on the faith in terms of a subjective orthopraxis.  This is key in the context of post secular spiritual seekers.  Anyway had fun, and learnt a few things from the responses and questions.

I am really impressed by the set up at Cramner, so if you are thinking and trad or pioneer training, I commend talking to Michael Volland.

How do you do formation with Spiritual Questers?

This is such an important question.  Many of us involved in emerging and fresh expressions of church have been on a journey for the last twenty odd years.  More recently we have been focusing on the question – how do you do mission and evangelism with those who are spiritual questers rather than religious followers.  For some of us, this journey has taken us to the Contemplative Christian tradition and new forms of church such is new monasticism.  The Moot Community is a good example of this form of community, now extremely committed to mission and evangelism through dialogue and the practice of meditation for stressed out workers in London’s financial district.

So through an openness to follow God, we have been led to the riches of a rhythm of life, spiritual practices and postures to help us engage with this agenda.  For some of us, this has evolved out of a greater Trinitarian understanding of the Christian faith leading to participative and sacramental understandings of the ecclesial community.  My first book, ‘Emerging & Fresh Expressions of Church‘, was a first participant study looking at the significance of emerging and fresh expressions of church.  My second book, The Becoming of G-d which I hope is going to be published by Canterbury Press in a revised second edition, explores the Trinitarian basis discovered through being an emerging and fresh expression of Church, and the book I am currently writing, New Monastic Friars, seeks to explore new monasticism more fully.

However, most emerging and fresh expressions of church have not yet adequately explored how we do formation with spiritual questers.  However, we are beginning to build up an understanding to start experimenting with Christian formation.  Our mission and evangelism has relied on a transcendent model of contextual theology (using Bevans terminology) of invitation and transformation, sustained in a community seeking to become a deeply resourcing expression of church as a combination of a ‘mystical communion’ and ‘sacramental’ models of Church (using A Dulles’ understanding). So how do we hold onto this more questing and praxis approach to spiritual growth?

Well I think we are learning from two sources what this may look like – the combination of a 12-step course as a form of praxis and experience of transformation holding onto the Enneagram to help us understand ourselves better particularly around formation.  The Core Team in Moot is currently reading through the book ’12 Steps to Spiritual Wholeness by Philip St.Romain’ to open up the Christian faith.  Next we are reading through a book Aaron Kennedy is suggesting (from our community) on formation and the enneagram.  So we hope then, that this approach may help us draw together a proto-type to explore this as a more cultural resonant way to engage with formation in a more experiential relational way.

This is an important next step, and we will see where it leads us.

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