New Monasticism Chapter 2: Stories

Chapter 2 was largely a series of stories. Stories of God using ‘life together’, to borrow Bonhoeffer’s words, to greatly impact the world. His first reference actually began before Bonhoeffer even penned the words from which we got the name, new monasticism. It reminded me once again that this is nothing new. I liked Jonathan’s response when asked about the new monasticism movement.

“Movement?” he said, “If new monasticism is a movement, it’s much more like a river that we fell into than a march that we helped organize.”

He realized they were a single part of something far bigger – God’s movement!

From here on, rather than the book report I feel my last post resembled, I’m going to list the words of others quoted in this chapter. Their words both challenged and encouraged me, and often helped clarify the heart behind this new monasticism. A heart firmly rooted  in the great commandments and the Sermon on the Mount.

“The more genuine and deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and his work become the one and only thing that is vital between us.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“The light that broke forth was of a different sort. It was a light of hope that shone as if after the twilight. . . . My American Jesus joined Nietzsche’s god in the graves of Europe tonight. Yes, that god is dead. Now, let us dance. What Bonhoeffer has invited me into is the living Body of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” – Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

“The restoration of the church will surely come from a sort of new monasticism which has in common with the old only the uncompromising attitude of a life lived according to the Sermon on the Mount in the following of Christ.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Testament to Freedom

“…but I want to stress that new monasticism is about God’s gift, not some idealists’ dreams of peace and harmony in our time.” – Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

This quote is quite possibly the most challenging one for me. As a dreamer and idealist I see the danger inherent in being too attached to those dreams, and yet I know it is not only something I am capable of doing but something that I have done. It reads, “Whoever loves their dream of Christian community more than Christian community itself will become the destroyer of every Christian community, no matter how honest, earnest, and sacrificial their intentions may be.” – Deitrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

From the words of Eberhard Arnold, one who was part of a group of Christians who began a community in 1920’s Germany, first a call to “be part of the stream of the Spirit that began at Pentecost.” He first marks this by referencing the generosity of the early church in sharing of their property, but it is the next few lines that were a siren’s call to my heart. It was like I was hearing my own desires from another man’s mouth. He wrote, “We want a genuine school of life, where the simplest work becomes a physical and artistic experience, where there is freedom from intellectualism and its pitfalls, where a new man can emerge, a creative man whose culture expresses what is real.” Freedom! True freedom!

But the final words shared from Eberhard are worth significant thought. “We do not need theories or idealistic goals or prophets or leaders. We need brotherhood and sisterhood. We need to live Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. We need to show that a life of justice and forgiveness and unity is possible today.” A testimony of love.

Finally, I’d like to share the 12 marks of New Monasticism shared at the end of this chapter. If nothing else, they can help give you, as they have me, a better understanding of the guiding principles of the movement.

1.  Relocation to the abandoned places of Empire.

2.  Sharing economic resources with fellow community members and the needy among us.

3.  Hospitality to the stranger.

4.  Lament for racial divisions within the church and our communities combined with the active pursuit of a just reconciliation.

5.  Humble submission to Christ’s body, the church.

6.  Intentional formation in the way of Christ and the rule of the community along the lines of the old novitiate.

7.  Nurturing common life among members of intentional community.

8.  Support for celibate singles alongside monogamous married couples and their children.

9.  Geographical proximity to community members who share a common rule of life.

10.  Care for the plot of God’s earth given to us along with support of our local economics.

11.  Peacemaking in the midst of violence and conflict resolution within communities along the lines of Matthew 18.

12.  Commitment to a disciplined contemplative life.

(These are in a slightly different order, but are accurate to those listed in the book. Unfortunately I needed to find a place I could copy and paste them as my battery is quickly running out.)

Are you challenged by the words of these Christian men and women who’ve gone before us? What thoughts come to mind as you read these quotes?



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