What Is New Monasticism?

By Monk Preston

(Neo-Monasticism, Neomonasticism)

   

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

Photo: Celtic cross.

Image: portion of illuminated manuscript page from "The Book of Kells."

  
 
What are the similarities and differences between New Monasticism (itself primarily, but certainly not exclusively, an Evangelical Protestant phenomenon) and traditional Protestant Monasticism of the past 150 years? What are its origins and history? 
 
The modern phenomena of New Monasticism, or Neo-Monasticism, which blossomed into general public awareness both during and following 2004 with a spate of books, articles and Christian print media coverage did not simply appear full-blown out of nowhere.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer first used the term in a letter written by to his brother Karl-Friedrick on the 14th of January, 1935.

'...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 (January14, 1935)

The actual practice of New Monasticism had its beginnings in the teachings and interest in monasticism of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and first came to fruition on Apr. 26, 1935 with the founding of his Finkenwalde Seminary to educate Pastors for the "Confessing Church"; Evangelical Christians forced to go "underground" to escape Nazi persecution.  

Here he taught his views on and put into practical application his vision of a new monasticism.  In 1937 the seminary would be declared illegal.  Twenty-seven of its former students would be arrested by the following November.

 
...a slightly different "take" on monastic practice...  
 
Although it too, is primarily Protestant, it has a slightly different "take" on monastic practice than the more formal and traditionally practiced Protestant Monasticism including Anglican/Episcopal, Lutheran, and Brother Roger's independent monastic community of Taize in France (Note: Taizé actually "overlaps" into both categories. In most ways a traditional monastic Community, it was the first Community to introduce three aspects of New Monasticism.  
 
It was the first independent monastic Community---not affiliated with any particular Denomination.  It was the first Interdenominational Monastic Order---in the beginning Protestant; now including Roman Catholic and Orthodox monks.  It was the first to reach and have a great impact on on lay youth).  
 
New Monasticism is primarily (but certainly not exclusively) a movement of Evangelicals, and, like the early Celtic monks and the early Franciscans, stresses evangelism and missionary activity in one's own locality, and in many cases a deep concern for the poor.  The emphasis is on going beyond the necessary beginning step of receiving Christ to actually living the Gospel out in one's daily life.  Again, like the early Celtic monks and early Franciscans, the New Monasticism communities often combine singles with married couples, and some of these are families with children; St. Francis in the same way instituted his Third Order for lay persons, whether single or married.

  Photo: of our actual Celtic Cross Shield (TM).  The Prayer Foundation Logo and Trademark.  Phot Copyright 2007 S.G.P.  All Rights Reserved. 

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