Totally Devoted by Simon Cross – extract six

I suppose the first half of the book really is spent setting the scene for a look at some of the communities which exist today, and there really is a lot of context to be explained. For instance there is the role of Anglicanism, and the movement which was born around the same time, but which in many ways is its opposite, Anabaptism. Both of these wings of the church have played important roles in the formation of new kinds of monasticism.

…within a few years of the Reformation, Deacon Nicholas Ferrar founded an Anglican lay community at his home in Little Gidding, Cambridgeshire. The ripples of that particular wave are still being felt in the UK today. More details of this community are to be found in chapter 10.

Other Anglican orders have had significant impacts upon the worlds of monasticism and religious life. The Community of the Resurrection, for instance – who were visited by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in 1935 as he sought to find practical ways for starting his new sort of monastic community – are an Anglican order who are best known for their pioneering work in apartheid-era South Africa. The brothers of the community had deliberately chosen to base their religious life amid the grime and soot of industrial Yorkshire; in doing so, they were, and continue to be, a model for other monastic and religious life expressions found in urban locations.

Returning to the Reformation of the European continent, and we begin to find people using the terminology ‘new monastics,’ which became a kind of derogatory term used by supporters of the Reformation leader Martin Luther, in reference to the Anabaptist movement with whom Luther was in serious dispute. Luther himself had been a monk previously, and after leaving the cloister is said to have denounced barefoot friars as ‘lice placed by the devil on God Almighty’s fur coat.’ The Reformer Wolfgang Capito wrote worriedly about the former Benedictine monk turned Anabaptist leader Michael Sattler, who he thought was bringing about ‘the beginning of a new monasticism’.

Extract taken from ‘Totally Devoted, the challenge of new monasticism’ by Simon Cross. Copyright 2010 Authentic Media.  ISBN-13: 978-1850788683  Available Online via or

See previous extracts:  1, 2, 3, 4, 5.


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