Covenant parish community

Having previously set out some of my thoughts about what we were calling “parish monasticism”1We’re now calling it “new monasticism in the parish context” because that’s what we really mean – even if this name is a little bit of a mouthful. The emphasis here is on new monasticism to be clear that “parish monasticism” is not a different thing to “new monasticism”, but, rather, an expression of new monasticism in a particular context., the next question is how to proceed practically. It’s all very well to talk about doing this – but how do we actually begin?

This week, I began a foray into new monasticism with my church at our annual parochial church meeting. My thinking was aided by discussions held around an upcoming New Monasticism conference in October in which we pondered what “new monasticism” actually is. Like most movements of the Holy Spirit, this one proves difficult to pin down. However there was broad agreement around one thing: having a common rule or rhythm of life. This set me wondering as to whether this is a good place to begin.

So this week I have committed to begin preaching about things we might commit to do together as a church. The focus here will be covenant – a promise we make to ourselves, to each other and to God to live in a certain way. So I will preach, for example, about such things as mutual love (in a 1 Cor 13 kind of way), availability and welcome, sharing, vulnerability, generosity and a rhythm of common prayer. This list is far from complete and, as we proceed, I hope to be guided by the rules/rhythms of existing communities (starting, of course, with Benedict’s Rule).

As we explore these ideas together and pray together, it is my hope that we will begin, as a church, to hear God’s calling and to begin to formulate wording for a covenant we may make together.

This will be an interesting journey and I already foresee significant questions around the term of the covenant – it cannot be anything like the life vows of a monastery or friary – and the scope – who is included? At present I am wondering whether we might borrow the idea of an annual covenant service from Methodism, in which members of the church commit to some part of the covenant. I think there will have to be different levels of the covenant to meet where people are in their lives and journey with God. So, perhaps, those on the edges who are very tentative might just commit to be an explorer for the year to come, whereas others might make much larger commitment.

So, we begin. May God guide us in this journey.

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1. We’re now calling it “new monasticism in the parish context” because that’s what we really mean – even if this name is a little bit of a mouthful. The emphasis here is on new monasticism to be clear that “parish monasticism” is not a different thing to “new monasticism”, but, rather, an expression of new monasticism in a particular context.

2 thoughts on “Covenant parish community

  1. I cannot think of any old monastic order which does not concern itself with cultivation of some sort. In an urban parish that would be difficult, unless you can acquire an allotment locally. The only other alternative would be to create a “Guerilla Gardeners’ ” group in the vicinity. I dont know how the latter would gel with you, but it would certainly be service in the community. New monasticism will fail without such an objective in view, and if it is to be for a whole year, the opportunity to understand the full cycle of the seasons is valuable, not least to the committed Christian.

    • Interesting point. I do like the guerilla gardeners idea! But even just a community house where the garden is tended might be of value. I have found that tending the vicarage garden has become an important spiritual discipline. One thing I notice in tough places is that people I visit often have gardens which are completely unkempt and I wonder whether their lives might be improved by becoming gardeners.

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