I begin with a confession: I’m not a new monastic, nor am I “tempted” to join. In the late 70s and early 80s, yes, we were a bit interested and did some things with a few folks in an inner-city area. But, I learned from the new monastic types — it was more of a “community” movement at that time. And I continue to be challenged to counter the consumerist lifestyle when I read new monastics. So, I’m glad to recommend for your careful reading a new book by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, New Monasticism: An Insider’s Perspective.
I see the new monastics, along with Tom Sine, as one element in the emerging church movement. The new monastics challenge the way the church has fallen in line with a consumerist approach to life and church and everything else. It seeks to form primary relationships in community instead of forging ahead in a largely individualistic lifestyle. All of this is an important challenge for all of us. How we work it out, of course, will depend on us — and I hope upon how our local community of faith seeks to live out the gospel in our world.
Wilson-Hartgrove interacts with all the principal figures: St Anthony, St Francis, Peter Maurin, Dorothy Day, and Shane Claiborne. The community in which he lives with his wife Leah is in Durham, NC, called Ruthba House. The major themes are covered, without trying to make all of us feel guilty, in delightful prose and exhortations for Christians to consider new ways — however we are living. Themes like community and economics renewal and peace and grace.
Well, this book is in touch with all the bright lights in the movement.