I enjoyed the conference on New Monasticism, jointly organised by the Anabaptist network, and the Northumbria community.
Not being part of either of these networks, but interested in both, we went along without much of an idea of what the event would be like. We found it both encouraging and inspiring.
The morning sessions included a time of worship led by the Northumbrians who took us through their morning office. Then Pete Askew of the community introduced Stuart Murray Williams of the Anabaptist network, and Roy Searle of the Northumbria Community. Roy plays cricket with my old P.E. teacher!
There followed two talks – one about Anabaptism, which I went to, and one about the Northumbrian community which Kel went to. I found the explanation of the history of Anabaptism very interesting, and was able to corner Murray Williams at lunch time to quiz him on whether Anabaptists, with their adherence to non violence and peace making, can take an active part in politics outside of anarchism. His answer boiled down to: “there are a number of different opinions about that!”
I also bumped into Mark Berry, the emerging church leader from Telford, who I recognised from his dodgy hair do. It was nice to have a chat, after having commented on his blog occasionally and read a lot about what he’s doing over there.
Other emerging church types knocking about included Ian Mobsby from Moot in London, and Ian Adams from Maybe in Oxford among others.
Brother Samuel from the Aglican order of Franciscans added a touch of gravitas and extra dollops of wisdom. Although he’s not a ‘new monastic’ it is fair to say that his order is less than ancient itself! I really agreed with his remark that one of the key things for a committed ‘monastic’ type community is that they work together manually. His comment ‘there is some very deep spiritual wisdom in making bread’ is so true.
After lunch there was a choice of workshops – I went to a discussion between Ian Mobsby and Brother Samuel – conparing and contrasting the old monastics and the new. Just how monastic are the new monastics? Good question. One of the main themes coming out, and well made by Mobsby and others, was that its more about being frianrs than being monks.
The distinction being that Monks tended to seclude themselves, while friars went out into the community to live out their faith. This is true to a degree, but of course only really applies to certain streams of monkism. Anyhow, I liked the concpet of ‘re-friaring’ the church, but it’s easier to say re-monking!
This session allowed more of a discourse between those in the meeting and the speakers than the first session had – which was very valuable.
More conversations and question and answer sessions followed, with a final session of worship in an Anabaptist style, which included a lovely way of singing the Shema Yisrael among other things.
In all, Kel and I were both really encouraged by what we saw, and the people we met. There were a lot of different types of people there, from the rather posh, to the decidedly not posh – from the emerging church smoothies to the Jesus Army. I’d have liked to have seen some more of the missionary community there, and perhaps some of the 24/7 folk, but that would have just been more icing on an already rich cake.
Well done to all the organisers, I thought it provided a good platform for those who are interested in finding out what others are doing in this area, but arent perhaps able to make all of the connections themselves! Looking forward to more.