The New Monasticism

Mark Walter
Nov 15, 2017 · 7 min read
The New Monasticism

The New Monasticism

A significant change in monastic traditions has been gradually occurring since the 1990s, if not earlier.

While no one is predicting the end of monasteries and convents, religious orders are losing members, funding and in some cases are being forced to close. Perhaps coincidentally, a new Christian-based movement has emerged, characterized by the concept of being a lay monk or lay nun in everyday life.

The concept is by no means revolutionary.

Martin Luther and John Calvin

The basic concept behind The New Monasticism is two-fold. First, laity often desires a method which allows them to participate more deeply, and allows the message of the ‘way’ to resonate more thoroughly and dynamically within themselves. Second, it is the layperson who makes or breaks the church and its practices, and monks are considered laypeople. Similar to what’s needing to occur in today’s class warfare environment, genuine change can only come from a massive, people-based movement. In this context, we can think of monks and nuns as being community organizers, but on behalf of a higher human calling — that of caring and consideration, combined with deep thought, prayer and meditative practices.

Bede Griffiths peered into the future of monasticism

The movement is both spontaneous in its emerging — exemplified by our own monastery — as well as being loosely organized under the umbrella term “The New Monasticism.”

These redefined monasteries are, in some cases, organizing under common visions and guiding principles. (Please see at the end of this article which, by way of example, displays a sample set of New Monasticism vows.) Many monasteries are housed in vacant warehouses, individual homes or small apartments. Far from being secluded in nature, the “New Monastery” may just as easily be located in highly urbanized settings.

The ‘monastery’ is in all of us.

Ecumenical and Social Approaches

While able to trace its origins to a redefining of Christian monastic traditions, the New Monasticism also incorporates an openness and inclusiveness that any modern reworking of religion demands. In some cases, the refresh remains ideologically tethered to Christianity, while in other cases it makes room for a more ecumenical or even secular approach.

“Monasticism in all its expressions is, in part, protest.” — Dr. Andy Fitz-Gibbon, abbot.

Dr Andy Fitz-Gibbon, abbot of the Lindisfarne Community on the New Monasticism. What is Monasticism?

It is true that The New Monasticism often focuses on social activism and responsibility, and generally defines itself within the context of existing organized religion. And it is also true that some traditionalists within the New Monasticism movement itself may be put off by anything perceived as a turning away from the message of Jesus.

But there are important subsets contained within New Monasticism. The more socially responsible Orders, for example, have an apparent advantage in that they provides their members with something to actually , something to become involved - a turning, if you will, of the inward practices of meditation and prayer into an activity that is demonstrably beneficial . This activism has often been the focus of other Christian-based groups, such as the Universalists or Unity.

The Mystical Approach

Other Orders may concentrate more on the mystical journey, the inner path in which the seeker endeavors to become more acutely aware of the subtleties of consciousness or perhaps even what we define as reality. This, of course, includes Orders that are not necessarily religiously-based. Which may alienate some within the New Monastic movement, yet not bother others in the least.

From our perspective, the essence of the more inclusive form of monastery is to broaden the definition of ecumenicalism, widening it to include eastern and western philosophies and religions, as well as those of an agnostic or atheistic preference. Perhaps just as importantly, to also embrace the cast-offs, those who are often clad in sarcasm, coarseness and skepticism.

The Little Creek Monastery’s philosophy is primarily based on and martial arts philosophies and approaches, with an ad hoc sprinkling of Taoism and Zen. Our membership is informal, and includes atheists, agnostics, Dudeists, Native Americans, Catholics, Protestants and those from the Jewish tradition. Our members decide, each in their own way, the extent of their personal involvement with respect to the monastic life, as well as within the context of social justice and awareness issues. Some members may prefer music, poetry, art, bowling, motorcycles, tattoos, cooking, gardening, solitude or meditation.

We believe that it is vitally important to recognize and answer to the inner calling that an individual may experience. And to simultaneously recognize that there are ways for us to enter into an exploration and expansion upon this inner yearning, even in everyday life circumstances.

Our monks and nuns include those who are white collar, blue collar and no collar.

Mark Walter, founder, The Little Creek Monastery

Monastic Mission

The Little Creek Monastery has a determined and on-going focus on inner transformation. In addition to advocating inclusiveness and social fairness, the monastery promotes:

  1. Sharing individual experiences in consciousness and awareness;
  2. Encouraging discussions concerning the challenges of the teacher/apprentice relationship;
  3. Constantly seeking better ways to experience a more connected, relaxed and simpler way of living.

Monastic Vows

Our own vows are simple, and we also support the The Nine Vows of the New Monastics.

The Nine Vows of the New Monastics

1. I vow to actualize and live according to my full moral and ethical capacity.

2. I vow to live in solidarity with the cosmos and all living beings.

3. I vow to live in deep nonviolence.

4. I vow to live in humility and to remember the many teachers and guides who assisted me on my spiritual path.

5. I vow to embrace a daily spiritual practice.

6. I vow to cultivate mature self-knowledge.

7. I vow to live a life of simplicity.

8. I vow to live a life of selfless service and compassionate action.

9. I vow to be a prophetic voice as I work for justice, compassion and world transformation.

To these nine vows, our monastery adds a vow that’s a tip-of-the-hat to our Dudeist members:

10. I vow kindness to strangers.

A Monastery for Everyday Life & Leisure

beyond these walls, walk those who wear and weather time