New Monasticism

These folks are Sparky, Katrina, Karlie, and Jon. They work at Windows Booksellers in Eugene Oregon. They are also part of a Church known as Church of the Servant King. Jon is on a book buying trip this week which will bring him through Jackson.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m interested in new monasticism. Every year, when many of us gather for a meeting of the Ekklesia Project I enjoy talking with those members from Eugene, not least because Jon has fabulous taste in cigars and is generous.

Another reason is because the culture in Eugene is probably the furthest you can get from West Tennessee and still be in the same country. It’s interesting. I’m looking forward to sitting with Stock for a few hours.

Don’t build ugly sanctuaries.

The building that our church worships in may be the prettiest church in the county. If it’s not, I have no doubt that the prettiest church in the county is another Methodist church. We’re lucky. We have no competition in that regard. There are no high church Presbyterians, Episcopalians or Catholics to outrank us. We don’t even have a Lutheran church, so we’re the only ones who think in terms of pretty when we build.

I know the “If it looks Catholic, we shouldn’t do it” protestant history of why my Baptist and CofC brothers and sisters worship in such plain surroundings, but I don’t think their rationale holds up. And I know there are pretty Baptist churches out there, just not in this county.

There are some issues with having a pretty sanctuary. I know that, but I don’t see how having an ugly one is the alternative. My preferred alternative would be NO sanctuary.

I’ve mentioned before how I’m not sure what to think about new church starts. Part of my hesitancy is because it seems like all new church starts come with a mortgage. Granted, because Methodists believe that the sacraments should be given by an ordained elder, it would be difficult to have new Methodist churches that are cell groups of 10 or 15 people, but does that mean we shouldn’t do it?

The words kyriakon and ekklesia have both come to be “church” but it seems to me that despite our “I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together…” type hymns we still are tied to the buildings almost to the point of idolatry. I suppose that’s why some make ugly sanctuaries, as a way of fighting that, a way of making the space less attractive, more utilitarian.

Cell churches, house church, “new” monasticism all intrigue me. They seem to help emphasize the people of God rather than the house. Maybe they’ll help us all to be less tied to our buildings, whether they’re pretty or not.

Stuff and more stuff

I am somewhat drawn to monasticism. Even in high school, when I knew very little of what it might mean to take such vows, a friend and I discussed it as a possibility. He was hard-pressed to find a good Baptist monastery though. I guess there really aren’t many Methodist monasteries either.

Friends of mine are “new monastics” though they’re part of a group that’s been around longer than that term. They have my attention. I wonder what it would be like. They’re not just men, they are families, and they work together and live together, not sequestered, in the world, but not of the world. One of them, will hopefully be visiting us next month. I look forward to seeing him.

One of the things which I think draws me to this sort of living is the necessity of not having too much stuff. I don’t know how it happens that I have 6 stainless steel travel mugs when 2 years ago, I just wanted one. Why it’s possible for 3 of our family members to be on a computer at once (and if I really wanted to, it wouldn’t be difficult for all four of us to do so) is explainable, but it’s probably not good.

Enough about me. Here’s an old article about new monasticism. Jon Stock, mentioned in the article, has also worked with others on a book about it. It’s the pic above. I haven’t read it yet, but I’ll discuss it when I do.