Thursday, April 30, 2009

Neo-monastic community

In a recent Christian Century issue, Holy Nativity, an Episcopal Church in Los Angeles was featured by writer Amy Frykholm. "Church as Hosting Community" offered some very thoughtful ideas for consideration.

Episcopal priest, Peter Rood has worked at offering as many entry points in their neo-monastic community as possible. "Church is a place where people should be able to pursue religious paths that have meaning for them personally. Doctrinal agreement is not an issue. Rood says that he does not worry who will stay, for how long or for what. Membership he regards as largely an outdated concept."

Rood is using the model of a monastery for the parish. Hospitality is the main function of Holy Nativity. Everyone brings a gift he says and he hopes everyone takes a gift with them.

The parish has a community garden, offers cooking classes, has a jazz mass with young musicians, and teaches classes on meditation. His goal is to "provide a place of hospitality and discernment."

The neo-monastic model is unique to its location, what is possible in Los Angeles is a challenge for Tempe - but what is authentic to Tempe would be dis-ingenuous to anywhere in California. The important thing about the neo-monastic model is to find ways for each community to to make a gift, an offering, to the community in which they live and hope to serve out the calling of the community.

I am encouraged by Peter Rood and Holy Nativity. To hear that the community of God is being nourished and is growing around Benedictine precepts in the confines of parish life is inspiring.

Too often our specific communities have been given a discouraging message, one which offers little hope, in other words, the ship of the Episcopal Church is sinking. Even our own General Convention is spending time looking at Emergent models in hopes of finding a way of survival.

Rood may have the best answer - look at our past as our strength. Episcopal Church stop wringing your hands and instead put them together to pray and work, like the monks in LA.

1 comment:

Matt Baker said...

I love this post. I see the ship, the great Episcopal demographic ship sinking as souls leave the deck. And so yes, a new model. One of the many things I love about Benedict is that he is way pre-reformation split (read unity of Christ), but he is also post Roman Imperial super structure. He lives in a time when the ship that is the empire is sinking. And so he finds a way to make a new kind of community. I say we have the same opportunity now. What do we offer that no one else can? A way back into the community of Christ, without the membership issues. The way of Christ, and the way of Benedict are as relevant today as then. In time, by word of mouth, this will become clear to those ready to hear it (Monks were never super abundant). In the end, we do not need churches or buildings to be monks. We need only community, caring, and a vision of how to live life with a spiritual direction. If the church reverts someday to small circles of folks meeting in houses, who is to say such humility would be a loss. By being humbled we learn at last what is most important in life.