Wednesday, March 12, 2008

SynchroBlog on Neo-Monasticism

I am not a neo-monastic. I do not have much experience with neo-monasticism. I've been to Taize and thought it was powerful, and cool. I've spent a little time with Karen Sloan and some of the Presbymergent gang which includes a few neo-monastics. I know Beth (our guest blogger on this subject) who has her little community which some consider a neo-monastic community, but I really don't know much about neo-monasticism. I do think that it is a great concept, at least what I know, or perceive of it.

I perceive it as a community of mission minded Christians, who live and worship together, and find ways to impact their neighborhoods - a simple definition. I wonder - Need it be more?

Beyond that, I wonder if my evangelical/Pentecostal background has neglected this potential for too long. Is it possible that there are people who currently appear to be strange in the eyes of many Christians, who would be powerful expressions of the faith if they were placed in devoted communities of the faith, and given the potential for living in radical mission to their cities?


Bryan Riley said...

As I wrote, I see YWAM bases as offering a taste of neo-monastacism. And, I will add that it truly is a fantastic taste of what I imagine Heaven may be like when the members of the community are all following Jesus together.

Beth said...

I think YWAM and mission bases in general are a good connection for people from traditions who don't have monastics to get a handle on what the concept is. Important in that is the notion with being a missionary as with living in a monastic type setting that "not everyone happens to be called to this, it's not a higher calling or a lower one, but some people are called to it as a valid way of following Christ."

There is an old article from 1988 from Christianity Today calling for a new monasticism that I think frames it similar to Phil's take.

Thanks for the chance to participate in this.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Bryan,

thanks for being a part of this synch!

Pastor Phil said...

No! Thank you Beth!

and thanks for the link to the article. I know my definition is simple, but it is birthed out my own early faith experiences. Back in '82, shortly after becoming a Christian I helped run a drug and alcohol rehab intentional community - we just called it a "program," but in retrospect it was a radical intentional community - sometimes glorious, sometimes quite difficult.

Steve Hayes said...


We blogged before about utopian communities, and one question might be how far neo-monastic communities are utopian.

Whas your drug-rehab one utopian?

Pastor Phil said...


Utopian - heck no! It was neither Heaven nor Hell, but a bit o' both. I would not look for something utopian personally. I suppose I desire to live at the gates of Hell offering redemption, and this enfringes upon a utopian experience, and provides rather a radical-wonderful-dangerous adventure.

Beth said...

Yeah, I would see monasticism as for the most part rather aggressively anti-utopian.

Pastor Phil said...


"aggressively anti-utopian"? You are refreshingly practical!

Although that sounds like you are saying monasticism is an on going experiment in redemptive, but controlled torture.

Chinese water prayer anyone? :-)

Alan Knox said...


Thank you for this topic. I enjoyed studying neomonasticism and reading the various posts. I think this has been one of the most beneficial synchroblogs for me.


Pastor Phil said...


Thanks for a thoughtful post on the subject.

Kieran Conroy said...

Hey Phil, still need to catch up reading all the synch-bloggery, but wanted to give you a link to my new blog:

I'd love to be added to the list for next month's posting too, if that's possible. Be well!

Anonymous said...

'Chinese water prayer' might be a good description of living in any intentional community---thanks for the smile on that one, Pastor Phil!

I also warmed to the connections you or someone made to the fact that there are probably those souls in every (faith) community that would thrive in a 'neo-monastic' environment but who struggle with everyday life alone. And just think of the praying they could accomplish with that kind of support around them for the benefit of the rest of us poor fools!

This discussion reminds me of the Hindu life-cycle stages from which I think we can learn a lot. First stage is the child/student. Second is the householder/family raising stage.

The third stage is hermit or forest dweller (could be akin to neo- monasticism) This is a freer, less encumbered stage of life.

The 4th stage is the most interesting one to me and breaks the progress of the first 3...and actually can be entered into at any time. 4th stage is 'Sunyasin' and is actually a rejection of life, including religious beliefs (!) in exchange for a search to attain release from the cycle of 'samsara'.

The sannyasins become wandering hermits, living life without any shelter or possessions. They eat when they can acquire food, but never enter into any work to acquire it; it must be given or found. They become holy men, seeking spiritual enlightenment and power, striving to achieve the true wisdom of the cosmos. Some may become kind and give blessings to those around them, while others may become wrathful and powerful and wield magic against those who cross them!

So neo-monasticism as we're discussing it could be the place where we go to make transitions between the 2-3-4 stages of life? Or, to stay through all of them...

I definitely feel like I need preparation and support to embark on the 4th stage, in whatever form that might take here in our culture. But the importance of breaking with all the structures and rules is part of becoming the elder--and we desperately need eldership!!

Ok, that's all for now. Feel like I've been rambling on like I alraedy live out of a begging bowl...

Beth (aka Myrabeth)--and not to be confused, although I would personally love that--with the other Beth who actually knows what she's talking about, at least regarding neo-monasticism!

Pastor Phil said...

Oh Kieran,

We'll definitely have you onboard for the upcoming SynchroBlogs.

Pastor Phil said...


Thanks for a really thoughtful reply. Sometimes I feel like I could identify with wanting to become a wrathful, powerful, magic-wielding sannyasin, but then I don't that's in the heart of Jesus for me. Dang! It sure sounded good. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Hey Pastor Phil--
I know about relating to the darkside of the sunyasin...wake up that way sometimes! Maybe it was that cloak Jesus took on in the temple with the dread-money-changers?

I think what I'm thinking (!) is that there's something that we need to learn from the release of cultural norms as we move into (and back from in my case--it's surely a dance) our roles as elders. Some of my most profound teachers have done so from a place of pure love, but it hasn't always been 'pretty' fact sometimes it was terrifying (to that ego-driven part of me that thinks it knows something)!

Y'all have a lovely day-
How about a synchro-blog on what it means to be an elder in our culture?