A New Monasticism

‘When the forms of an old culture are dying, the new culture is created by a few people who are not afraid to be insecure.’  Rudolph Bahro

As a Community we have been – and are – united in the quest for ‘a new monasticism’: a Northumbrian spirituality. Not as an escapist, nostalgic quest for a golden era that didn’t exist, or to replicate the past, but informed by the Celtic monastic tradition which is our heritage. We are ‘looking with them to Him who inspires us both’ in order to find a way to engage with the paradox and complexities of real life as it is.

New monasticism, as in any expression of Monasticism, stands in the wisdom tradition – which is not an accumulation of knowledge for its own sake, but a constant application to life actually lived. ‘A wise person does not gather and dispense insights, but rather has the heart to live those insights.’

Strongly influenced by the way of life expressed in the Monastic Communities at Roslin in Scotland and at Clonfert in Ireland; God’s call on the Northumbria Community is not to any form of institutionalism but to embrace, explore and express the heart of monastic spirituality in the everyday ordinariness of our lives, as a different way of living in and relating to, today’s world.

We do this by drawing from the well of faith and love for the Lord expressed in that period of our history, and applying it to our contemporary situation. We believe that we are experiencing as a Community, (along with many others) a ‘holy restlessness’ and a ‘divine concern’ regarding the nature of faith, which has only begun to make sense of the nonsense within us and around us through an embracing of monastic values and disciplines.

Monastic spirituality implies a single-hearted (solitary) seeking of God. This may or may not be carried out in the company of others, (the monastic tradition has embraced both alone and together), but the focus is clearly on returning to God, and making use of a daily rhythm of prayer (Office) and a Way for living (Rule), that enable us to ‘marry’ the inner journey, the landscape of the heart – a call to repentance, to self denial, and a call to recognise and to resist evil – with the outer journey, the landscape of the land, which has given us a platform to ‘find a different way’ of being Church.  Then to offer the fruit of our life with all who come our way and cross our path in the everydayness of our roles, responsibilities and relationships – asking with them ‘Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?’

This is our spirituality, how we live; ‘A combination of praying and living.’ It is, for us, the embracing and expressing of the gospel through the lens of our Rule of life, Availability and Vulnerability which reflects the ‘new type of monasticism’ of Bonhoeffer and the ‘almost monastic in nature’ of Stringfellow, enabling us to be participants in ‘enacting a fearful hope for society.’