New Monasticism is a diverse movement, not limited to a specific religious denomination or church and including varying expressions of contemplative life. These include evangelical Christian communities such as "Simple Way Community" and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove's "Rutba House," European and Irish new monastic communities, such as that formed by Bernadette Flanagnal spiritual communities such as the "Community of the New Monastic Way" founded by feminist contemplative theologian Beverly Lanzetta, and "interspiritual" new monasticism, such as that developed by Rory McEntee and Adam Bucko. These communities expand upon traditional monastic wisdom, translating it into forms that can be lived out in contemporary lives "in the world."
The origin of the new monastic movement is difficult to pinpoint. Some communities now identified with new monasticism have been in existence since the 1970s and 80s in the UK. Other well-known communities, such as the Simple Way in Philadelphia, formed in the mid-90s. Bede Griffiths, a Catholic Camaldolese Benedictine monk who oversaw a Christian-Hindu ashram in India from 1968-1993, spoke often of the future of monasticism as being a '"lay movement"', and developed a vision for new monastic life. Raimon Panikkar outlined the idea of a '"new monk"' in a series of lectures in 1980 given to a group of western and eastern monastics as well as non-monastic lay contemplatives at Holyoke, MA, which were subsequently published in the book Blessed Simplicity: The Monk as Universal Archetype. In the early 1980s, contemplative feminist theologian Beverly Lanzetta started the '"Community of the New Monastic Way"', a non-denominational new monastic community still in existence today. Recently, various new monastic communities have appeared in Ireland and increasingly across the United States, including '"interspiritual"' new monastic communities, connected to the lineage of Bede Griffiths, such as that seen in the Foundation for New Monasticism.
The notion and terminology of Protestant "new monasticism" was developed by Jonathan Wilson in his 1998 book called Living Faithfully in a Fragmented World. Wilson was, in turn, building on ideas of theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who said in 1935: "the restoration of the church will surely come only from a new type of monasticism which has nothing in common with the old but a complete lack of compromise in a life lived in accordance with the Sermon on the Mount in the discipleship of Christ." Wilson also built on ideas of philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre. Noting the decline of local community that could sustain the moral life, MacIntyre ended his book After Virtue, by voicing a longing for "another... St. Benedict." By this, he meant someone in the present age to lead another renewal of morality and civility through community. Wilson identified with that longing in his own book, but outlined a vision to carry it forward within the Protestant Christian tradition.
Calling the vision a "new monasticism", he proposed four characteristics that such a monasticism would entail: (1) it will be "marked by a recovery of the telos of this world" revealed in Jesus, and aimed at the healing of fragmentation, bringing the whole of life under the lordship of Christ; (2) it will be aimed at the "whole people of God" who live and work in all kinds of contexts, and not create a distinction between those with sacred and secular vocations; (3) it will be disciplined, not by a recovery of old monastic rules, but by the joyful discipline achieved by a small group of disciples practicing mutual exhortation, correction, and reconciliation; and (4) it will be "undergirded by deep theological reflection and commitment," by which the church may recover its life and witness in the world.
The middle months of 2004 became a defining moment for the movement, when there was a gathering of a number of existing communities and academics in Durham, North Carolina, where they drew together something like a "rule of life," referred to as the "12 marks" of new monasticism. The gathering took place at a new monastic community called "Rutba House," of which some founding members were Jonathan and Leah Wilson-Hartgrove. Not coincidentally, Leah Wilson-Hartgrove is the daughter of Jonathan Wilson whose writing has galvanized the movement.
Building on the work of MacIntyre, Rod Dreher published a book in 2017 called The Benedict Option. In this he outlines a strategy for western Christians to survive the influence of a hostile society. He identifies order, prayer and work, stability, community, hospitality and balance as tools for living a Christian life. Dreher points to intentional communities such as Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, the Bruderhof, or the School for Conversion as examples of the Benedict Option being lived out today.
Most Protestant new monastic communities emphasize the following:
The "Twelve Marks" of new monasticism express the common thread of many new monastic communities. These "marks" are:
The movement differs from other Christian monastic movements in many ways.
Catholic Camaldolese Benedictine monk Bede Griffiths spoke of monastic life being essentially a lay calling, and saw the future of monastic life in lay communities. "The monk is a lay person…An order of monastics is essentially a lay order. Some monks may live in monasteries, but increasingly the majority will live in their own homes or form small communities—a monastic order in the world." He went on to express a new vision for monastics, one in which communities and individuals live spiritual lives independent of religious organizations or institutions, independent of celibacy and overarching rules and dogmas—free to follow their own conscience and guidance of the Holy Spirit in living a sacred life, yet united in the common cause of building a sacred world. A good summary of Fr. Bede’s thought on these matters is found in The New Creation in Christ. Fr. Bede also wrote many other books on contemplative life, inter-religious experience and exploration, and the relationship between science and religion.
Raimon Panikkar explicated a vision of the "new monk" during a series of lectures given to western and eastern monastic from various religious traditions and lay contemplatives in 1980 at Holyoke, MA, these lectures were subsequently published as Blessed Simplicity: The Monk as Universal Archetype. There Panikkar said the traditional monk is "only one way of realizing [this] universal archetype. … If the monastic dimension exists at least potentially in everybody, the institution of monasticism should be equally open to everybody. … The monastery, then, would not be the ‘establishment’ of the monks, but the schola Domini, the school where that human dimension is cultivated and transmitted. … Here appears the consequence of our distinction between the monk as archetype, i.e., the monk as a paradigm of religious life, against the archetype of the monk, i.e., the human archetype lived out by the monks, but which may also be experienced and lived today in different ways."
Beverly Lanzetta began a new monastic community in the early 1980s that was not associated with any particular religious tradition, "The Community of the New Monastic Way." Lanzetta speaks of the contemplative dimension of new monastic life as both proceeding and going beyond the religious traditions themselves. This is articulated in her books, Emerging Heart: Global Spirituality and the Sacred, Path of the Heart and Radical Wisdom: A Feminist Mystical Theology.
Inspired by the new monastic forms of Bede Griffiths and Raimon Panikkar, and in partnership with Catholic monks Father Thomas Keating and Brother Wayne Teasdale, an "interspiritual" movement of new monasticism has formed around the work of young spiritual leaders and social activists in partnership with traditional monastics. This form of new monasticism is expressed and developed in Rory McEntee and Adam Bucko's The New Monasticism: An Interspiritual Manifesto for Contemplative Life. Other collaborators include Episcopal priest Matthew Wright, Sufi lineage holder Pir Netanel Miles-Yepez, David and Tamara Milliken and their "InnerSky Community", V.K. Harber's work, and others.
Brother Wayne Teasdale coined the word "interspiritual," which he described in his books The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions and A Monk in the World: Cultivating a Spiritual Life as a new orientation of religious and spiritual life with the following elements:
In McEntee and Bucko's The New Monasticism: An Interspiritual Manifesto for Contemplative Life, they describe the "Nine Vows of the New Monastic", which were based on Brother Wayne Teasdale's "Nine Elements of Spiritual Maturity" and developed by the Rev. Diane Berke.
Inspired by the original foundations of Monastic Communities. A Catholic lay group began in Georgia that focuses on Celtic Spirituality and Monasticism that is essentially tied to Eastern Catholic/Orthodox ties. Through Meticulous study, the group found the ancient Coptic Church to be the heritage holder of the ancient Celtic monks, and established connections with the larger Byzantine Catholic Church in order to found a religious community that is focused on instilling the virtues of monastic life in lay persons. The Community meets regularly for prayer, follows the Rule of St. Columba, meets for common times of study, and involves both married/single men. It also consists of lay persons who do not take the vow of the monastic life, but are associated to the community in providing time, talent and treasure.
The community follows a very strong code that comes from 2 Peter. the Columban code is:
"The way to the Father is through the Divine Nature of Jesus Christ, From Faith there is Virtue, From Virtue there is Knowledge, From Knowledge there is Self-Control, From Self-Control there is Steadfastness, From Steadfastness there is godliness, From godliness there is Brotherly Affection, From Brotherly Affection there is Love, By Love I will know that God has set me free."
All monks follow the above code, the Columban Rule and take Vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience in the state of life they have been called.
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