Brief History of New Monasticism

By Monk Preston, Co-Founder  & President,      The Prayer Foundation ™

 Image: The Prayer Foundation logo (with white Celtic cross on a green shield). Next  New Monasticism (Index)

(Neo-Monasticism, Neomonasticism)

 

Photo: "Skellig Michael" Copyright Irish Tourist Board.

 

Image: portion of illuminated manuscript page from "The Book of Kells." Photo: of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.          
  '...the restoration of the church will surely come only from a new type of monasticism which has nothing in common with the old but a complete lack of compromise in a life lived in accordance with the Sermon on the Mount in the discipleship of Christ.  I think it is time to gather people together to do this...' 

  -Dietrich Bonhoeffer (January 14, 1935)

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 origins and History of New Monasticism:
 
Apr. 26, 1935: Dietrich Bonhoeffer founds a  Seminary to train Pastors for the underground Confessing Church (Evangelical Christians persecuted by the Nazis); putting into practice his teachings of a New Monasticism.   In 1937 Himmler declared the Seminary illegal.  By the following November, 27 of its former students had been arrested.    
 
 Both the term itself, and the actual existence of the new and ever-expanding Christian movement called New Monasticism actually had its origins in the writing, teaching, and practice of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  
 
It began on April 26, 1935 when Bonhoeffer brought into practice his interest in monastic teaching in the founding of an illegal seminary in Zingst, Germany, during WWII.  In June of that year it moved to Finkenwalde.  State Security police closed it down in 1937, imprisoning 27 of its students.
  
The same year Bonhoeffer wrote his most famous book, The Cost of DiscipleshipDietrich was executed by the Nazis on Apr. 9, 1945 at Flossenburg Prison, just a few weeks before the end of WWII.  He was 39 years old.

1940: Brother Roger Founds Taizι in France

 
Brother Roger left his home in Switzerland and moved to France to help refugees escaping the Nazi occupation.  He founded the monastic community of Taize in France.  
 
Although at first glance and in many ways seemingly a part of "Old Monasticism", his was the first monastic Community to institute many of the "milestones" of current "New Monasticism" in effect creating a "bridge" between the two.  
 
An independent monastic Community, it was at first an Interdenominational Protestant Monastic Community.  They now refer to themselves as an "Ecumenical" monastic community.  Currently, its Monks also include members of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Communions.
 
Silverball 3 Milestones of New Monasticsm:
  • Silverball 1.) Taize was the first independent monastic community (not affiliated with a Denomination).

  • Silverball 2.) Taize was the first Interdenominational monastic Community (at first Protestant; later including Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox monks).

  • Silverball 3.) Taize was the first monastic Community to appeal to great numbers of youth.  Beginning in the 1950's (and especially from the 1960's and on), youth in ever increasing numbers have traveled to Taize in their search for God and meaning.

 
1964: R.A. Torrey III Founds Jesus Abbey in Korea
 
     Around 1964, Reuben Archer Torrey III, an Episcopal Priest and Missionary to Asia (he had been raised in China, his parents were also missionaries), grandson of Dwight Moody's fellow servant of the Lord, R.A.Torrey, founded Jesus Abbey as a missionary community in Korea.  

It is affiliated loosely with the Episcopal Church.  They are very Evangelical and sound in doctrine.  They seem in actuality to be a Lay Monastic Community, but they do not call themselves that, or use the term "monks" in referring to themselves.

 
1994: Northumbria Community 
    
  The Nether Springs Trust was formed in the mid-eighties, out of the spiritual journey in the late seventies and early eighties of John and Linda Skinner and Andy Raines, who began attempting  to follow Dietrich Bonhoeffer's ideas of a New Monasticism---ordinary people learning and practicing in their own lives, aspects of traditional monastic spirituality.  In 1989 Nether Springs merged with Northumbria Ministries, and in 1994 became Northumbria Community (a dispersed community).  Like The Prayer Foundation ™, it is strongly influenced by both the early Franciscans and the early Celtic Monks. 
 
1999: S. G. Preston (Monk Preston) and his wife Linda (Monk Linda) Co-Found The Prayer Foundation ™ and the Knights of Prayer ™ Monastic Order 

First 100% Born-Again Christian Monastic Order

     In 1999, S. G. Preston, (Monk Preston) and his wife Linda (Monk Linda) founded The Prayer Foundation ™, an Interdenominational Evangelical Christian ministry to promote and encourage prayer in the Body of Christ.  Believing that all Christian ministries, regardless of their primary Calling, should also preach the Gospel, their emphasis was in addition very strong evangelistically.  

As a parachurch organization, they do not take stands on non-essential (to Salvation) Doctrine.  Currently (as of Oct. 2007) they have Registered Monks in 7 Countries in North America and Europe and over 1,700 volunteers in 43 Countries worldwide.

 At the same time they founded the Interdenominational (Monks all remain in their own denominations) Knights of Prayer ™ Monastic Order as one of the ministries of The Prayer Foundation ™.  It was the first 100% Born-again Christian Monastic Order in the world, and in fact, in the history of Christianity. (see also their Statement of Faith including the Plan of Salvation also posted on this Site).

The First Monastic Order to Allow Women Monks

    Teaching that monasticism should have been put to the test of the great Doctrines of the Protestant Reformation, as the institutional Church had been, they came to the conclusion that monks should be allowed to marry.  Later they learned that the Celtic Christian Monks (400-1100 A.D.) also held this view, and were also very missionary minded, traveling as missionary monks to Britain and Continental Europe.  The Prayer Foundation ™ re-defined the term "Monk", stating: " all we really mean by the term "monk" is a Christian especially dedicated to the Word of God and prayer".  On July 19, 1999, The Prayer Foundation's ™ Monk Linda also became the First Lady Monk: the first woman to officially receive "full monk status" in the history of Christianity.  They are a post-modern Religious Order of Celtic Monks in the spirit of St. Francis.

2004-2005: New Monasticism Movement Blossoms

Between 2004 and 2005 dozens of Evangelical Protestant Monastic groups were formed, mostly in the U.S., but also in the U.K.  These usually combine both single and married couples, some with children.  Missionary/Evangelism minded to their own localities, and generally zealous to help the poor.  The idea is to go beyond accepting Christ to living out the Gospel in your daily life.  The terms New Monasticism and Neo-Monasticism and came into general use to describe what is now a movement beginning to influence the entire Christian communion.

2008: There are estimated to be over 100 groups in North America claiming to be both "Evangelical" and "Monastic" according  to The Boston Globe (Feb. 3, 2008).

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