New Monasticism movement: a modern take on an old tradition
Her own contribution to the discussion includes a new book about women monastics ranging from a third-century desert mother in Egypt, to Belgian and Italian founders of spiritual movements, to Irishwoman Nano Nagle, founder of the Presentation Order.
Asked why many people have been drawn to mystical traditions from religions other than Christianity, Flanagan suggests it’s because in Ireland, there has been a particular focus on Christian institutions rather than inner practices. “The public performance of religion has been complex and difficult in Ireland but there is a whole wisdom tradition within Christianity which offers meaning to people who live in complex situations and helps them live authentically in the face of life’s challenges.”
Ian Adams suggests that Christianity hasn’t always offered its best learning and practices for people “living in thrall of speed”. He says that while belief in God can give people a “vital grounding”, reliance on it alone can leave people “indifferent, arrogant and isolated from the realities of human existence.
“I want to imagine an alternative to religion as purely belief system. I want to suggest a religion as a discovery of balance, a mix of being and doing, as prayer and practice as self-awareness and self-giving.”
The Morning Bell is a daily call to prayer and/or reflection that Adams sends out each morning on Twitter, Facebook and by email. The Anglican Cathedral of Second Life and i-Church, an online Christian community based on Benedictine principles, also offer online opportunities to explore New Monasticism.
New Monasticism has also spawned new communities where like-minded people meet. The mayBe community in Oxford is one example. It has embraced habits such as a weekly community meal, caring for allotments, public storytelling and outdoor celebration of the Eucharist.
Meanwhile, within the Irish New Monasticism group, there are seminars, retreats and bookclubs. Some members are also planning to offer people places of stillness where they can rest, be silent or engage with others. “Christ Church is already being used in this way when we invite people to come for quiet days, centring prayer,” says Bunting. He hopes to open up nearby St Werburgh’s Church as a reflection space for people on their way to and from work.
“The monastic tradition also creates opportunities for people to ask questions, come to their own conclusions and continue on their journey,” he says.
Seeking to live more fulfilled lives
New Monasticism is an international movement of lay people and professional religious who seek inspiration from the Christian monastic tradition. Contemporary figures within New Monasticism are Dietrich Bonnhoffer, who wrote about new ways of being in community after the second World War, and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, who in 2003 travelled with his wife to tell Iraqis that American Christians did not support the war.
Some people have set up new communities that explore ways to reconnect with God through prayer, art, music, dance, communal dining and Lectio Divina, a form of engagement with the Bible through slow meditative reading and re-reading of passages.
Forthcoming events organised by New Monasticism Ireland include Retreat in the City led by Ian and Gail Adams in Christ Church Cathedral and St Werburgh’s Church, February 15th-17th. Cost €85. 01-6778099, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another event is Awakening Wonder and Engagement – Rediscovering the Rhythms of Nature and the Pulse of the Spirit, led by Rev Philip Roderick in All Hallows, Drumcondra, Dublin, on February 23rd. Cost €30. 01-8373745.