We’re monks without robes

Welcome to the Rutba House, one of the communities in the network/movement of New Monasticism. For friends who don’t know much about the New Monasticism, it is basically a name given to the emergence of relatively new intentional Christian communities that have some common characteristics. “Intentional” and “community” are kind of buzz words these days. The communities are intentional in the sense that they are purposely choosing their location and a way of life that feeds one another and serves others. There are 12 marks that people have noticed seem to be common among many of these newer (and often times much older) communities. This is from the New Monasticism Website:

Moved by God’s Spirit in this time called America to assemble at St. Johns Baptist Church in Durham, NC, we wish to acknowledge a movement of radical rebirth, grounded in God’s love and drawing on the rich tradition of Christian practices that have long formed disciples in the simple Way of Christ. This contemporary school for conversion which we have called a “new monasticism,” is producing a grassroots ecumenism and a prophetic witness within the North American church which is diverse in form, but characterized by the following marks:

1) Relocation to the abandoned places of Empire.

2) Sharing economic resources with fellow community members and the needy among us.

3) Hospitality to the stranger

4) Lament for racial divisions within the church and our communities
combined with the active pursuit of a just reconciliation.

5) Humble submission to Christ’s body, the church.

6) Intentional formation in the way of Christ and the rule of the
community along the lines of the old novitiate.

7) Nurturing common life among members of intentional community.

8) Support for celibate singles alongside monogamous married couples and their children.

9) Geographical proximity to community members who share a common rule of life.

10) Care for the plot of God’s earth given to us along with support of our local economies.

11) Peacemaking in the midst of violence and conflict resolution within communities along the lines of Matthew 18.

12) Commitment to a disciplined contemplative life.

At our house, we have a “road together” which kind of describes our practices and covenant of sorts. We have daily morning prayer at 7 am, we fast together on Mondays and end the fast with communion and then a meal with just our community. We have 3 other dinners we share during the week, two of them with neighbors and anyone is invited (though this schedule may change soon). We share about 1/3 of everyone’s income (or in my case $500/month), and we do life together. Some people have pretty regular jobs, other people piece together some part time jobs in the community, or Leah works at the Capital Restorative Justice Project. We kind of promise not to work more than 40 hours a week, and I only will work about 25-30 hours. One of the major goals of our community is to be learning from the people in our neighborhood. We don’t run any programs really, but instead we partner with other programs and schools that are already in place. 

It has been widely recognized that this movement seems to be largely white. There are a lot of questions surrounding why this is, and what is it that draws white people and not others. Shane Claiborne and others are engaging in a conversation about this publically on the God’s Politics blog right now. Here’s the first of the posts and you can find the others that have come from it: http://blog.beliefnet.com/godspolitics/2008/08/reconciliations-challenge-for.html.

One of the major inspirations for this movement, and for many of the communities in it, is people trying to find a way to be the Church again. As some have said, we don’t need more churches, we need a Church. Or Fewer Services, more service. As the church has become more and more infiltrated by false gospels of mammon, violence, and power. New Monastics have tried to be prophetic both in lifestyle and public witness to the already here/coming nature of the kingdom of God, and how it is not about money, power, or violence.

For more on New Monasticism, here are a few books (some of them by my mentor for the year, Jonathan)

School(s) for Conversion: 12 Marks of a New Monasticism (edited by the Rutba House), New Monasticism: What it has to say to today’s church (Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove), Inhabiting the Church (Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Tim Otto, Jon Stock), Jesus for President (Shane Claiborne, Chris Haw), Irresistible Revolution (Shane Claiborne), Free to Be Bound (Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove).

These books are all very recent. There are some older books that sort of diagnose the need for something like the New Monasticism.

I do recommend all the books above, and can recommend many more!

Shalom, friends.

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