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new monasticism now

May 19th, 2004 by isaac · 1 Comment

This is an article about what we are calling a “new monasticism.” Jonathan wrote it for the winter edition of our Rutba House newsletter. If you want to recieve our newsletter please email your address to us at

Those of you who’ve been around the Rutba House the past few months have no doubt heard us mention the “new monasticism.” (One friend wondered whether Leah and I had taken vows of celibacy. For the record, we haven’t.) We think it’s probably time for us to explain—or to begin to figure out—what we mean by the phrase. So first of all, a confession: it’s not our phrase. We stole it from Leah’s dad, Jonathan Wilson, who first used it in his book, Living Faithfully in a Fragmented World. It’s a book about the church and how the church offers a different way of life in the midst of the world. But it’s also a book about how difficult it is for the church to be counter-cultural in the midst of a culture so fragmented that hardly anyone can remember why we do half the things we’ve always done. Jonathan concludes his book by calling for disciplined communities of discipleship in which the whole people of God can rediscover the practices that make for faithful Christian living. What is more, he calls for communities in which those practices would make sense. Such communities, he says, would constitute a “new monasticism.”

The Rutba House is an experiment in the new monasticism—one of many that are being conducted in towns and cities across the country. Some of these we knew about before coming to Durham. Many we didn’t. But we are excited to learn more all the time of ways in which the Spirit is moving to address the social crisis we feel when we talk to our neighbors or read the morning paper. We are encouraged by the Catholic Worker Movement, the Bruderhof communities, Shalom Mission Network, Word and World Alternative Seminary, the Ekklesia Project, and the Christian Community Development Association , among so many others. Despite his absence in mainstream media, God has not removed himself from the world stage. He is alive and active, moving among his people to produce creative new forms of resistance against the powers of evil. At the same time, he is himself creating new communities that, though imperfect, give us a glimpse of the kingdom that is to come “on earth as it is in heaven.” It is an exciting thing to see.

Because we are eager to know what the Spirit is doing in our land, the Rutba House is hosting a gathering in Durham this June to discuss the new monasticism. We are inviting preachers and academics, activists and community members from different states, denominations, ethnic and social backgrounds to tell stories about what they have seen and heard. Together, we are going to pray and discern what a rule for living might look like in the new monasticism. (We’re even going to try to write a book about it.) We’d appreciate it if you would pray with us. If you have stories of the Spirit moving in your own community, we’d love to hear them. We’re not sure just what will come out of this gathering. But we’re excited to hear more from the God who called us to this place. And we’re eager to learn where he wants to take us from here. As St. Catherine of Siene wrote, “All the way to heaven is heaven, because Jesus said, ‘I am the Way.’”

Peace to you,


(Follow the link to something I wrote about a New Monasticism )

Tags: theology

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Mary Elizabeth Mason osb // Dec 11, 2006 at 8:43 am

    Count on my prayers for and interest in the June meeting. Please put me on the mailing list for your newsletters.