New Monastic Vows

New (or neo-) monasticism is a movement roughly, though not totally, located within the emerging church movement. Those part of it seek to appropriate the insights of traditional monasticism for our contemporary world, especially intentional community, prayer and mission, but most often in an urban setting. That is, groups of Christians intentionally choose to live together in a single house in the midst of a needy part of the city (or in a Third World slum, as in The New Friars) and reach out from there to the broader community. In this context, author Andy Freeman asks what traditional monastic vows might look like:

It is an interesting experiment to consider how some of the monastic vows connect with our lives. Is a new vow of silence, for example, one that disconnects our Internet or mobile phone? Is it one that turns off our TV or removes us from the crowd? Can we embrace a vow of poverty by choosing not to earn a bigger wage or not seek that new promotion? Could we choose to wait sometimes, to be happy with little?

Perhaps most challenging is a vow of celibacy. Being married with five children perhaps undermines my credibility to say anything on this issue, yet surely celibacy is about sexual fidelity as well as abstinence. How do I apply this in both thought and deed? For those of you not yet married, there are times to lay down the desire to be with others, just as there are times to take that up again. I know some who have chosen to go a season without a boyfriend or girlfriend. I know some who feel that singleness is part of their journey and have chosen to embrace it, sometimes with joy, sometimes with tears. (Pete Greig and Andy Freeman, PunkMonk: New Monasticism and the Ancient Art of Breathing, 111-2.)

What might a neo-monastic vow of silence, poverty or celibacy look like in our post-communications revolution [anti-silence], post-industrial revolution [anti-poverty], post-romanticism [anti-celibacy] world? An important question indeed, which might do much to help us recognize how much our culture has seeped into (and perhaps, poisoned) our lives.

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