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steve taylor

Is monastic part of an instinct by which Christians who want some depth and feel in exile find ways to survive spiritually? Or is it a genuinely God-sent ie missional way, of being with neighbour?

I'm not saying the former is bad, just pondering somethings.



i suspect if you look at monasticism there are both motives and both trajectories there. i guess technically monks were more focused on the former and friars more focused on the latter. i like ian adams metaphors of cave, refectory and road for spiritual life, community and mission all being important.


One question - what would Jen's response to this be? One of my fears is that the rise in monastic forms and language has again given lots of men permission to act - but where's the women? I may be wrong on this, as I couldn't find a list of all the contributors, but it did make me think.


2 out of 13 chapters are by women is the answer on the book. it's a good question. i'll ask jen! i was talking with tim at cms and we tend to use the language of mission community which is how we describe cms as opposed to monastic, but not sure if that helps or not?!


I think it does, as the inherited language of the monastic is - I would perceive - male. Be interested to hear what Jen said. Put it another way - what would men think about becoming part of a 'new nunnery' movement?

2/13 certainly seems...unfortunately typical I suppose. But one would hope that things would look better for a new movement?

steve taylor

Jonny, do you have a date on that Dave Andrews piece?



no sorry.


My immediate feeling in reading your info was it feels very male!, but that could be my own agenda that I am bringing!. Good to hear there are 2 chapters by women, but it does initially come over as another opportunity for men to cluster together in woods to find themselves!!- sorry harsh i know, there is probably a place for that, but not sure how community building that is across the genders/ ages etc!!


i think that's fair enough sonia. let's shift the language! i was discussing it with jen last night and she felt the same really. but we were wondering whether monks could become generic like guys?! but as i think i said above mission community is the language we are using at cms rather than monastic or monks. but seeing as i was reviewing a book called new monasticism that was the language i went with! what is ironic is that in many ways the spirituality at the heart of this - contemplative, prayer etc is a world that is predominantly appealing to and attended by women - retreat centres and mind body spirit fairs and so on i reckon are 70/30 women/men. and the look and feel is very definitely more appealing to women. so there is a counter argument in other places in the church that having some language around spirituality that appeals to men may not be such a bad thing? i think in terms of the emerging church/conversation - my experience of it in the uk through altworship and so on has been one that has always sought and preferred to find language and models where men and women are working in partnership. but it's not always easy.

the same discussion exists around the word pioneer - which is not gender specific but some say sounds like it appeals to men more. but i have been enocuraged that the pioneer leadership course we are running is around 50/50 men/women.

Chris Goan

I am happy to consider my self part of a New Nunastic Community...

..but I also quite like clustering together in the woods with blokes.

There is a serious point here though about a renewal of MALE spirituality (as opposed to male leadership and power mongering.) Might this be a means of bringing renewal?


When I visited Iona, I was struck by the ruined nunnery and the lost voices, names and stories of the women who had lived and worshipped there, in contrast to the restored Abbey next door. The trouble with talking about monks and monasteries is that once again the male is the norm and the risk is that the voices and experiences of women somehow get lost. Is two out of 13 chapters written by women really something to be pleased about? Is that all? I wrote a ranting blog post last night about a recent book on the emerging church written by four male authors, which includes video interviews with six male contributors and have 73 people in their index of whom 2 are women. I didn't post it in the cold light of this morning - just inwardly despaired.


Good point Jonny and ironically I am far more likely to go on a retreat than Iain is!

James Dixon

This is an interesting discussion. Seeing as there is currently less men than women in church at the moment it could be a good thing to develop where men find attractive. Though it does seem like male leaders are becoming over represented as usual!

Having said that, I think the split is down to where an individual’s spiritual preference lies on the sliding scale between being solitary or congregational types. Some people find it easier to encounter God in a big group, a mega congregation, a conference or stadium sized worship groups, others find it easier to encounter God in a cell, a remote hill top or small intimate group.

It seems to be that ‘come to’ church favours the congregational types and the ‘new monasteries/priories/communities’ favour the solitary type. God still desires that the solitary relates to a community in order to act out the command to love others as ourselves. They achieve this better in smaller groups or 1 to 1.
The trick, or necessity, is to provide a variety of spiritual spaces within the church landscape to allow the difference types to flourish.

I think it is possible to chart other dimensions of spiritual types (a bit like Myers Briggs); that is what it means to love God with all the heart (meaning the core of our being), [comprising of] soul (orthodox/settled to pilgrim/exile), strength [interaction with the world] (material offering to conceptual offering) and mind (thinking driven by compassion or doctrine).

I’m sorry if the last paragraph is not that clear. I’m still trying to pin down the theory. But if you could describe spiritual types and likewise describe the offerings and character of church events/ services you could identify why some do not fit in and plan services to balance the needs of a diverse community/ economy. Perhaps it could be used to work out the Heineken effect, what types are better for reaching the parts that other members of the church can’t reach or what mode of mission is best suited to which type: i.e. you might not get the best results if you put a solitary type of a stadium evangelism event. Leave most of those to the congregationals.


i'm not sure i agree with your distinction james though i agree that there are different personalities and traditions that will suit different people. but i don't think monastic=solitary. far from it - it's about a community commiting to live out a particular way of life to follow jesus christ.


interesting debate - I suppose it raises lots of questions for me which include - what is new about 'new' monasticism? What would be new if women got more of a voice/ platform ? Is it so surprising that only 2 chapters of the book is written by women - to me it appears representitive of the church community. Most books in the church are written by men, the majority of the emerging church leders/writers are male, most church organisations are led by men. The church is stuck in a patriachal paradigm and it's theology is male centred so for this book to include 2 chapters written by women is understandable.

What would be new - would be for men to promote and listen to the voice of women, to push them forward, to seek to hear their voices. Perhaps men need to learn to be silent and join some 'new' silent orders. Perhaps men could do some ego work and question their needs for power, position and privilage.


I know that book Jen. And all I can say is, I'm sorry!

Mark Berry

As one of the contributors to the book (well actually mine was a paper delivered at a symposium then edited into a chapter) I think it's worth saying that there was no "clustering" here at least not for me as I had little knowledge of who the other contributors were/are!

Linking this with the conversation re. Church in the present tense... I wonder wether when we look at books we are faced with a double challenge a) the male dominance in positions of public leadership (I say public deliberately because leadership has many functions/parts and perhaps the perceived male dominance in the emerging/FE/new-Mon world is illustrative of those whose voices are more easily heard/frequently sought/pushed to the fore rather than of bigger picture of leadership in these communities? & b) that the publishing world is a pretty insecure one, they do not seek out new voices, it often feels like they keep going back to the same people. As someone who doesn't get the chance to be heard that often it was great to be asked for this book!

I was at a gathering in Seattle recently exploring mission orders and it was great to see that the folk there were pretty well mixed - male, female, white, other colours!, straight, gay, young and less young (like me!). tbh I don't see being an author as any indication of credibility, creativity or influence! Yes we should facilitate/fight for those who do not fit the criteria because of gender, sexuality, age or because they are not academic enough or part of the old-authors-club in order that we can hear/learn from their stories... but at the same time I'm not sure that we should make authorship the way we judge a person's importance/relevance.

Peggy Brown

I am late to the conversation (which is, um, normal :^)... ), but I believe that the new monastics might be the place where there are actually a rising number of women involved. This is certainly where I resonate ... and where my whole Virtual Abbess thing started.

I believe the new monastics have an opportunity to help revive the sisters, as well, especially when folks like Alan Hirsch remind us that there used to be Abbeys where an Abbess served with men and women (in each of their own cloisters, of course :^) ).

It will be good to see how the Spirit continues to lead ... and who is following!


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