The Community of St Jude
The Community of St Jude is a non-residential community inspired by Sant'Egidio and based in Earls Court, West London. It is bonded together by a simple rhythm of prayer and working with those on the edges of life. It began in 2005 with a vision for restoration (as something normative within the life of the church), a 'heartbeat of prayer' and a practical, hands-on Christianity, engaging in true friendship with people caught up in poverty, injustice and suffering.
The Community of Aidan and Hilda
The Community of Aidan and Hilda is an internationally dispersed community of Christians following a Way of Life and a Rule of Prayer. Sixty members, described as Voyagers, and over 100 Explorers, who are testing out their membership, keep in touch with Community Guardians in places such as Lindisfarne and London from their homes in the UK and around the world. A sister community in the US has over 100 Voyagers.
The Moot monastic community offers hospitality and welcome in the heart of the City of London to 'questers' or 'spiritual seekers'. As a monastic community it seeks to deepen the ways people encounter God, themselves and others in community, spiritual formation and mission.
Odyssey Mission Community
The Odyssey Community in Derby began four years ago with six members. So far there have been seven new Christians as a result of Odyssey members, and two of these have gone on to join the community. The others are also members of local churches. Current areas of mission include: theatre company, alcoholics, drug addicts, sex workers, vulnerable adults living in a particular street, young gay people, family and friends, people with eating disorders and survivors of abuse.
safespace in Telford began four years ago, exploring a call to live lives of hospitality and mission in the areas in which they lived. Members' calling is to share life with people where they are, including the many who wish to explore spirituality yet can't find space in traditional church structures. They seek to live out the three values (or DNA) of pilgrimage, mission and community through a number of different rhythms that have echoes of monastic, as well as of Anglican tradition. They encourage daily prayer, Scripture reading and meditation, accompanied by the weekly pattern of meeting round the meal table and breaking bread together. Longer seasonal and annual patterns are also embraced in their ongoing life.
'New monasticism' refers to a variety of approaches, all drawing inspiration from monastic traditions.
Similarities across approaches
These include a stronger focus on intentional community, patterns of prayer, contemplation, hospitality and practical engagement in mission beyond itself (often to the poor) than is normal in an average church setting.
Like old monasticism, a defining mark of new monastic groups is the 'second decision' (the vows) members must make to join. (It is called a 'second decision' because the decision to become a Christian is considered the first decision.)
Unlike old monasticism, new monastic groups tend to have a dispersed life (though some may have more frequent patterns of gathering than others) and they welcome the married.
Differences across approaches
These lie in some groups being monastic orders, while others draw on aspects of monastic life in their fresh or inherited church setting, without seeking to be order.
Differences arise according to size, level of recognition from the wider church and gathered or dispersed patterns. They also depend on which monastic tradition is the source of inspiration and wisdom - ie, Celtic, Benedictine and Franciscan. Above all, each new monastic group will have its own particular calling and charism that reflect these variables.
The phenomenon is very diverse, but here are three examples:
Larger, officially recognised orders
These have links to mainline denominations. They are essentially dispersed with worldwide membership and have evolved liturgy to sustain the community in dispersed mode. Each has a mother house.
Two examples are The Community of Aidan and Hilda (above) and The Order of Mission (TOM - link to the right).
Smaller communities officially recognised as orders
These are recognised as orders by mainline denominations. Their patterns of gathering are daily or weekly, and most members live or work within a more closely defined geographical area than the previous category.
They include The Community of St Jude (above) and The Order of Jacob's Well (link to the right).
Small, newly-planted churches
While not seeking to become orders, these have adopted a rule of life and gather daily or weekly to sustain a deeper sense of community for mission.
There are many examples of this, including Moot, Odyssey Mission Community and safespace (all above).
Things to keep in mind
Claire Dalpra, assistant researcher at the Church Army's Sheffield Centre for over ten years, has the following to say:
Look to the friars
Friars may be better examples for fresh expressions to draw on than contemplatives because of the way they balance community and spirituality with mission.
Pursue clarity about your charism
Charism is a term to describe the special combination of calling, gifting and identity which makes a community distinctive and one of God's gifts to the wider church. You need to pursue clarity at all times.
Don't underestimate the important of values
Values are what hold a community together regardless of the task you are doing. When a community knows what it values, it can make decisions, establish priorities and appoint future leaders more easily. Communities will also be helped if the spiritual practices they develop are linked in with their values, to undergird their community life with relevant spiritual nourishment.
Yet don't be too quick to determine your values
Let the charism slowly shape your values. The shorter the time you take to establish your values, the harder the task of living by them will be. Resist the pressure to go public with your values before you've begun. Values must arise out of the life of the community and what God is already doing among you, otherwise they will ring hollow.
Don't make it too easy for new members to join
Take seriously the classic monastic element of 'second vocation'. To have a core of permanent members committed to the charism of the community will benefit the stability and sustainability of the community in the long-term.
Keep expectations realistic
When sharing the vision of your community with others, especially potential members, care must be taken to communicate that living in intentional community has its ups and downs. Any group with a strong emphasis on community will look very attractive to potential members, especially Christians disillusioned with existing models of church.
Take conflict seriously
Conflict is an inevitable and necessary part of community building. Prepare well for it by establishing boundaries or rules for handling conflict before you need them. Although it might feel awkward and onerous at the time, think about appointing an outside visitor or guardian who is familiar with the community as an outside mediator in a conflict situation. Conflict is always painful, but being open and realistic about it beforehand will help protect the community from falling apart when it occurs.
Balance inward and outward journeys
It is tempting for many fresh expressions to err on the side of activism, seeking results in order to justify their existence before the watching church. Celtic, Franciscan and Jesuit monastic traditions offer helpful patterns in which monastery and mission are deeply necessary to each other.
Explore the pattern of shared leadership
This is modelled in traditional monastic communities. One leader who does everything may undermine the ability of everyone to use their gifts and serve their community.
Ensure ongoing mission is not eclipsed pastoral needs in the community or vice versa. The different roles of Bishop and Abbot in Celtic communities offer a useful focus for balancing the needs of any new monastic community.
Watch your language
Be sensitive in your use of historic terms and labels such as 'abbot' or 'bishop'. To outsiders, using such terms in fresh expressions contexts might appear presumptuous. Find a term, if necessary a new one, that aptly describes what you are doing.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, SCM Press, 1954, 978-033400904-7;
- M. Scott Peck, The Different Drum: The Creation of True Community - the First Step to World Peace (new edition), Arrow, 1990, 978-009978030-4;
- Jean Vanier, Community and Growth: Our Pilgrimage Together, Paulist Press, 1979, 978-080912294-3.
- The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical
Shaine Claiborne, Zondervan, 2006, 978-031026630-3
- Encounters on the Edge 29: Northumbria Community - Matching Monastery and Mission
George Lings, Church Army, 2006
- Encounters on the Edge 37: Chasing the Dream - Starting community
Claire Dalpra, Church Army, 2009
- Encounters on the Edge 38: The Cost of Community - Issues of maturity
Claire Dalpra, Church Army, 2009
- Encounters on the Edge 43: Seven Sacred Spaces - Expressing community life in Christ
George Lings, Church Army, 2009
- Celebrating Community: God's Gift for Today's World
Chris Edmondson (ed), Emma Ineson (ed), Darton, Longman & Todd, 2006, 978-023252659-2
- Punk Monk: New Monasticism and the Ancient Art of Breathing
Andy Freeman, Pete Greig, Kingsway Publications, 2007, 978-184291330-7
- Utopian Dreams: In Search of a Good Life
Tobias Jones, Faber and Faber, 2008, 978-057122381-7
- School(s) for Conversation: 12 Marks of a New Monasticism
The Rutba House (ed), Wipf & Stock (Cascade, 2005), 2005, 978-159752055-3