‘Some evangelicals turn to monasticism, suggesting unease with megachurch religion – and the stirrings of rapprochement with the Roman Catholic Church.’

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2008/02/03/the_unexpected_monks/

I was raised an Anglican but come from an Evangelical tradtion. My church is a vineyard church and you dont get much more evangelical than that or so you would think…

Even within the Vineyard movement we are starting to see the thirst for monasticism. Certainly for myself it has to with a kind of authenticity, back to basics and a very earthy feel about it.

I feel in many ways the evangelical church has played into the market too much for many people, it has become a well meaning corporate machine in some areas and to be honest I feel that is causing people to consider what else is there?

‘There is now a growing movement to revive evangelicalism by reclaiming parts of Roman Catholic tradition – including monasticism. Some 100 groups that describe themselves as both evangelical and monastic have sprung up in North America, according to Rutba House’s Wilson-Hartgrove. Many have appeared within the past five years. Increasing numbers of evangelical congregations have struck up friendships with Catholic monasteries, sending church members to join the monks for spiritual retreats.’

I have been to Douai Abbey near Reading (UK) where we spent some time talking with the Oblate director Father Gervase.

He has been at the Abbey since he was 18 that was some 54 years ago..the time we spent with him was both informative and exciting. It only lead me to explore further. We have just organised a pilgrimage from our church to Worth Abbey with one of the monks giving a short talk to us, time for relfection and a chance to join in the principal prayers in the afternoon. 

‘In an era in which televangelists and megachurches dominate the face of American evangelicalism, offering a version of Christianity inflected by populist aesthetics and the gospel of prosperity, the rise of the New Monastics suggests that mainstream worship is leaving some people cold. Already, they are transforming evangelical religious life in surprising ways. They are post-Protestants, breaking old liturgical and theological taboos by borrowing liberally from Catholic traditions of monastic prayer, looking to St. Francis instead of Jerry Falwell for their social values, and stocking their bookshelves with the writings of medieval mystics rather than the latest from televangelist Joel Osteen.’

I think it is important to remember that our own traditions have much value and we can take the best from our as well as any other part of the Body of Christ and that is what I do. We can use Lectio Divina just as well as contemporary worship, Liturgy as well video in one service.

It is a wonderful mixture of old and new and work very well.

‘New Monasticism is part of a broader movement stirring at the margins of American evangelicalism: Evangelicals disillusioned with a church they view as captive to consumerism, sectarian theological debates, and social conservatism. Calling themselves the “emerging church” or “post-evangelicals,” these Christians represent only a small proportion of the approximate 60 million evangelical Americans. Yet their criticisms may resonate with more mainstream believers. A recent study by Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois – one of the most influential megachurches in the nation – discovered that many churchgoers felt stalled in their faith, alienated by slick, program-driven pastors who focus more on niche marketing than cultivating contemplation. The study suggested that megachurch members know how to belt out jazzy pop hymns from their stadium seats, but they don’t always know how to talk to God alone.’

For some this may seem heretical, but for many it is strenthening their faith. Giving them time to think about God and get some of that illusive goldust..called silence!

Evangelicals have been tentatively exploring that side of Christian tradition since at least the 1978 publication of “Celebration of Discipline” by Richard Foster, a Quaker theologian who recast fasting and meditative prayer for an evangelical audience. His book sold nearly 2.5 million copies and launched a cottage industry of evangelical contemplative literature – a phrase that, 30 years ago, was a contradiction in terms. Some evangelicals made pilgrimages to the handful of older ecumenical monastic communities abroad, such as the Taizé Community (founded in Burgundy, France, in 1940), and the Iona Community, founded in 1938 at St. Columba’s landing place in the Inner Hebrides. They brought back what they learned, and have tried to make it their own.

Is it a fashion or a fad?

I don’t think so, ithink is a taste of reformationin teh evangelical church which will be for the better for the whole of the Body fo Christ.

‘Though many Roman Catholics have mixed feelings about evangelicals who adopt a hodgepodge of watered-down monastic practices and call themselves “monks,” some are supportive of New Monasticism. They view the movement as part of a wider rapprochement between Protestant evangelicals and Rome. A half-century of theological shifts on both sides of the divide – Vatican II’s liberalizing impact on the Catholic Church, and the waning of Protestant fundamentalism – as well as the decline of traditional ethnic resentments and an emerging pattern of political cooperation have all prepared the way. Father Jay Scott Newman, a priest in South Carolina, said that the New Monastic movement suggests a profound shift in evangelical identity.’

‘I have found that the Catholic priests and monks I have spoken to are excited to see this movement of people to monastic values.

To some Catholic observers, it is no shock that evangelicals have begun to feel the lack of organized contemplative life and yearn for a bond with religious tradition – they’re only surprised that it took them so long. “Monasticism has been such a powerful thing in the West and the East for so long that it would be very peculiar if it didn’t, at one point or another, erupt in evangelical circles,” said William Shea, director of the Center for Religion, Ethics, and Culture at the College of the Holy Cross.

“It’s just too long, too deep, too creative a tradition{hellip}You could call this movement ersatz monasticism, but I would hold back and ask, where might this lead?”‘

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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