I’m not quite sure how many are familiar with the concept of neo(new)-monasticism, but it is one which is growing worldwide. For myself, neo-monasticism encompasses much of my own personal journey.
The formation of neo-monastic communities does centre around a variety of issues. For some, it is a way of living a life which is counter to current culture. It reaches out in radical hospitality to those on the edges of society. For others, it is about learning from communal living, being the Body together. These communities share resources to varying degrees and attempt to live out their own understanding of the traditional vow of poverty.
I do agree with much of what these communities strive for, I do question what they are centred on. Certainly there are benefits to the spiritual life when focused on community and the marginalized. However, this is where I differ with their understandings. Probably, this is why I am a postulant with the Dominicans, rather than another order.
Using the 12 marks of neo(new)-monasticism as our starting point, it strikes me that there is much that supersedes what I perceive the necessary centre to be, that is, worship. Many of the websites of new monastic communities (see resource section on Wikipedia) focus on either community or hospitality. Again referring to the 12 marks, it seems as if the ‘contemplative life’ is tagged on the end in order for there to be some sort of support for the previous eleven. I would be the first to recognise my own need to spend more time dealing with and integrating these two specific areas in my own life. However, these two areas stem from our worship.
Community is formed from an understanding of the Triune Godhead. This is the starting point for all community. Secondly, community is part of our own ‘created-ness,’ our own need to have relationship, firstly with God and secondly with others. Also, if we practise a radical hospitality it can only stem from our own receiving of radical hospitality through Christ and the gospel of the kingdom. Any other attempt to extend radical hospitality without such a foundation falls flat and becomes exertion through our own efforts. Moreover, the central act of such a gospel is the cross. Without it we lose the impetus for our hospitality, the reconciling love of God.
I remember a project I had to do for a course during my time at Regent College. We had to study, analyse and critique a ‘discipleship programme.’ The purpose was to understand its effectiveness and its shortcomings. A friend and myself decided to revisit the BCP catechism. (If you’re not familiar with it, don’t worry most people aren’t.) But what struck me in our study was the centrality of the need for a ‘rule of life.’ Amidst all the other theological assertions was the emphasis for a ‘rule of life’ which would mature a disciple, out of which all other things would flow.
I guess what I am trying to point out is that without a strong emphasis on worship/rule of life (daily office, study, etc.) we will fall short of our goal of achieving a reform of the Church. We will fall short of what my own hope is – a vital, dynamic, exciting, life-giving, radical Christianity.
I am just beginning my journey in these waters. But I do agree that it appears that neo(new)-monasticism is what the Church is desperately longing for.