New Monasticism as a form of Christian small missional and contemplative communities have formally existed from the time of the second world war until today in different Church traditions in the UK and beyond. We honour the term which is largely attributed to the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said:
Further, in the Anglican Church, and in particular the Oxford Movement of the 19th Century, there has always been a monastic spirituality within anglicanism. When the original monastic houses were closed in England under the authority of Henry VIII, there was always a vision of the local church with daily morning and evening prayer, eucharist and compline.
In recent times there has been a hunger for a new monasticism that seeks to draw on a sense of Benedictine stability and hospitality, Franciscan mission and Ignatian spirituality. Westcott, a former Church of England Bishop, said this in 1884:
“And thus, nothing from old times will meet our exigencies. We want a rule which shall answer to the complexity of our own age. We want a discipline which shall combine the sovereignty of soul of Antony, the social devotion of Benedict, the humble love of Francis, the matchless energy of the Jesuits, with faith that fears no trial, with hope that fears no darkness, with truth that fears no light.
— Westcott, a former Church of England Bishop
More recently New Monasticism was included in the forms of Fresh Expressions of Church identified in the Church of England Mission Shaped Church report, which gave permission to the founding of many small missional new monastic forms of fresh expressions. Many were started but hard to build given their fragility and the complex task of being a Christian Community, contemplative prayer and mission to a particular context. However many of us feel called to this way of being Christian, to live it profoundly in the context of our ordinary lives.
Ten years ago, members of the Moot Community and others external to the Moot Community began to explore whether Moot and others were called to explore becoming what is called an Acknowledged Religious Community of the Church of England. That discernment process kicked off a working group and prayerful discernment. It was clear in that process that many there gathered were called to set up some form of Society, of umbrella type collaboration to include and support a number of differing and very contextual expressions of new monasticism with a broad and common Rhythm of Life and a shared constitution. This discernment was interrupted but began again in earnest in 2016. We are incredibly grateful to the work of the then Community St Margaret the Queen and the work of Gareth Powell who spearheaded the beginnings of a Rhythm of Life which is now the basis of the Society of the Holy Trinity. Further discussions that included Jutta Brueck, Ned Lunn and others have helped form the beginnings of a Constitution and a common Rhythm of Life to live to. Unfortunately the then Community of St Margaret the Queen was unable to move from beginnings to sustainability, again showing the important need for the Society of the Holy Trinity to exist to try and support communities through the instability and fragility that seems to always be part of the journey of this way of following the way of Christ.
It is our hope and our dream that the Society of the Holy Trinity will support and encourage the planting of new new monastic communities within the Anglican family of churches and beyond, and be a framework of support and encouragement to try and help more communities to become sustainable in our challenging times.
Elected Prior to the Wellspring Community, Peckham, London, UK.
and Acting Guardian of the Society of the Holy Trinity