Bonhoeffer’s amazing quote:
‘The renewal of the church will come from a new type of monasticism which only has in common with the old an uncompromising allegiance to the Sermon on the Mount. Its high time men and women banded together to do this.’
‘New monasticism’ has long been a fascination…ever since the day when Major Geoff Ryan uncovered a vision of William Booth for a ‘band of men and women’ even within the ranks of the Salvation Army for the renewal of Salvationism and the advancement of the gospel. That has continued through my contact with the Northumbria Community and through my readings of other new monastics. It is everywhere….and no wonder. It is also more than a fascination, it has become my spiritual map.
Ancient spiritual practices, a rule of life, a covenanted life are the tools which keep me sane in an insane church. I feel like an alien in the church, in a sense…I’m talking ‘church’ as we organise it, as opposed to ‘church’ as in the movement Jesus began.
All through the history of the church, there have always been voices unconvinced about the status quo, convinced that radical renewal is needed. When Christianity became the imperial state religion and became less and less like the movement Jesus began, the ‘Desert Fathers and Mothers’ moved out to the secluded places to form new community, to live again the radical call of the gospel as articulated by the Sermon on the Mount. It was the desire to show the world that Jesus meant what he said. In fact, they were so successful at this that they started to call the monasteries ‘schools of conversion’ because thats where the full commitment to a life of discipleship often happened rather in the churches.
When the indigenous church became heavily influenced by Roman Christianity, the Celtic Church continued to spread out from the Priory at Lindisfarne. Aiden’s (et al) band of missoners carried the gospel over all Northumbria and set up outposts around the crosses of the villages. They soon became susceptible to Roman influence, but still, the intent was there.
In the times of the Reformation, when Catholicism was corrupt and the Protestants wouldn’t go far enough, groups like the Anabapstists, the Lollards, the Waldensians, were persecuted from both sides. They made the radical point of allegiance to Jesus in a time when the church was losing the plot. Movements like the Methodists and the Salvationists which follow them were in the great dissenting tradition…dissenting from compromise to any system that limits the gospel and the Lordship of Jesus.
We’re still in days when the witness has to be made. It can be gentle, though. As I mentioned a few posts ago, when I left the Army I left with the determine to know more of Jesus’ Lordship in my life…to recalibrate around Jesus. This, I’ve discovered to my joy, is my life’s work. Its such a privilege to get paid to do it, too! Whatever desert I’m called to go to, whatever ‘denomination’ I work for, whatever my local setting, its that ‘new monastic’ vision that inspires me simply because it takes seriously the call to discipleship and mission in the world. It takes seriously real spiritual discipline. It ‘should’ be the norm (serious discipleship) but we all know the reality, not just in others but ourselves too.
I think that even with in our churches, there needs to be a banding together – a non-exclusive witness to our own settings, a modelling of what we believe discipleship means, always inviting others in towards the central maxim of ‘Jesus is Lord’. Its so important that the movement that bears his name resembles his character, call and commission.
So….here’s to necessary dissent…creative dissonance….