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Prayer, mission, community

09 May 2014

David Adam looks at ideas and actions in a recent movement

A New Monastic Handbook: From vision to practice
Ian Mobsby and Mark Berry
Canterbury Press £16.99
Church Times Bookshop £15.30 (Use code CT654 )

ANYONE who is concerned for the Church in this land knows that in the present time we face many who oppose us and even more who ignore us. There is, however, a growing interest in spirituality, even if the attraction is not toward the established churches: "spiritual, but not religious" is a common designation among many. We should not ignore this, but see it as a place to start and discover where we can work with them. There is also a growing desire among people for a strengthening of the sense of community and belonging.

If we are to meet such challenges, it is necessary to reach out in new ways, with new modes of worship, new examples of community, and a new showing of the joy of serving our God. This asks for commitment and vision from us all.

This book is about a coming together for strength and for reaching out in mission. As its subtitle declares, it is about vision and practice. It has much to say about the present dilemma of the Church and suggests some ways of combating it. Many of the new "monastic" communities are in the forefront of exploring new modes of worship.

Here, two leading practitioners of new monasticism open up the movement's spiritual landscape and its distinctive calling and gifts within today's Church. They share experiences, and stories are set alongside reflections and liturgies as a creative resource for all.

Focusing on the new monasticism's key characteristics of prayer, mission, and community, the book explores the author's own journeys towards a sense of community and new monasticism. They tell of some of the new monastic communities that have come into being from the final decades of the 20th century. We are led on to see the need for a deep Trinitarian faith, not only in belief, but in practice, and in the understanding of God as "holy community".

They emphasise the importance of creating a rhythm of life concerning our spiritual practices and outreach. With this goes the need to be creative and experimental in spirit and in practice. Within all of this, it is important to be committed to the local church. All members should be encouraged to seek to practise healthy community and bring to the affirmations of society the challenge of the gospel.

I did not find the title of the book encouraging, but it is full of vision and ways of practising it. In it are many seeds that could be sown in any local part of the Church. It presents a challenge that those who lead communities and their worship should heed.

Canon David Adam is a former Vicar of Holy Island.

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