New Monasticism

A Platform for MCUSA

I have been involved in some pretty strange things—a church planter of an all-homeless/mentally ill congregation; encouraging leaders of a mosque in Bangladesh to re-think Jesus; dumpster diving for Jesus, and so recently becoming the poster child for dumpster diving in Portland (Check out http://www.portlandmonthlymag.com/issues/archives/articles/0409-holy-diver/ and read a recent article about me—heck, just look at the pics!). Stuff like that. But when I got a call from MCUSA a week ago, that took the cake.

Someone nominated me to be the Executive Director of MCUSA.

At first I figured it must be a joke. Who would, in their right mind, think that I—radical pastor who has to bite his tongue every time he speaks to a middle class person—would make a good Executive Director? Someone just did it for a lark, I thought. Or perhaps I was recommended by someone who just wanted to shake things up. Well, that would do it. Me as taking Jim Schrag’s place? Just unthinkable. (more…)

When will they update the 12 marks?

In class we’ve been studying a lot about New Monastics. Lots of good stuff that you can read about it in many places, some even on this blog. Since it’s a fluid movement, I was wondering when they are going to update, change, or adjust their 12 marks. I have some comments on a few, and I’m sure others do as well, so when is the next conference? Or do we just email somebody like Johnathan W-H?

I agree (in thought and action) with a lot of what is said in the 12 points and what I see in the daily lives of the community around me and my interaction with some of these folks. But my particular question is spurred with regards to mark 1, which says that they relocate to abandoned places of Empire.” Some think that I am doing the “new monastic thing…” I’m not sure about that, but I do know that I am in my home area…and it fits many of the descriptions, but it’s not abandoned by Empire. Or do they mean that it’s abandoned by Empire because no (or hardly any) white people live in the area? There is a beautiful organic culture here and I don’t want to discount that by saying it’s abandoned. I think it is important to affirm the initiative of persons rather than possibly falling into “white savior” complexes again. I see that many New Monastics are very aware of race and class dynamics, so I’m hoping that mark 1 can be articulated in a more antiracist way. (more…)

PAPA Fest 2008: A Gramatically Radical Report

Cross posted from As of Yet Untitled.

From Thursday through Saturday of last week, Charletta and I attended PAPA festival. This is the People Against Poverty and Apathy festival that is a "convergence of communities and movements coming together to share, dream, and create." The gathering has happened twice before, first in 1997 and then again in 2006.

Storm and tents at PAPA fest

Plow Creek Mennonite Church and Fellowship hosted the event on their. I’ve visited Plow Creek a number of times over years, but the PAPAfarians had trasnformed the place. When we arrived on Thursday morning, the stubble on the oat fields was still visible between the veggie fueled bus campers and the 500 gallon water tank. But by that evening, the fields had sprouted tents like mushrooms in warm manure. Over 750 people showed up for the four day gathering that all told. Our entrance fee was on a donation basis since the event was run completely by volunteers, including most of the attendees themselves.

On Thursday afternoon we gathered to watch the opening festivities on the main stage, two hay wagons pushed together in a field. The welcome events which included an address by Tony Campolo (via cell phone) and an anarchist beat poetry band from St. Louis. More eccentric musical combinations were to follow in the ensuing days with musical acts ranging from a celestial harpist to a wild concert by the Psalters, a traveller/tribal/punk band that played hymns, folk songs and very loud worship songs. (more…)

Envision 08: Toward Christian Unity in the Public Square

Is Christian unity in the public square an important goal to work toward? Here at seminary there are many people thinking about denominationalism as a theological issue/concern. I went to a conference to think about some of these issues. It was called Envision 08 (www.ev08.org) I helped out with a workshop on Sexuality and Faith. There were many young evangelical Christians who are freeing themselves from the grip of right wing politics there. The conversation was familiar to an Anabaptist like me, but it was like watching people hear the Good News for the first time. Everyone was so excited that faith meant more than rigid rules, hierarchy, and supporting the U.S.A.

The Declaration below, coming from “Envision: the Gospel, Politics, and the Future” at Princeton University June 8-10, 2008, began with an online dialogue of approximately 100 participants on June 2 about religion, social change, and politics. On June 8, a diverse panel of scholars discussed the results of the dialogue.

After attending the conference and hearing reports about the conversations that occurred throughout many aspects of the conference, the panel met and created the declaration. You can sign it if you want. (more…)

Mark Gornik and the Fourth Period of Inner City Development?

This semester we read To Live in Peace: Biblical Faith and the Changing Inner City by Mark Gornik in my missions class. Gornik was one of the founding members of New Song Community Church in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood on Baltimore’s West Side. Over the past two decades or so, New Song has been heavily involved in the revitalization of Sandtown through their urban ministries and Habitat for Humanity. Gornik’s book makes a theological argument for Christian engagement with the inner city, not as a “mercy mission,” but as faith in action that seeks to revitalize urban spaces and communities.

My reservations with the book are not so much what Mark Gornik writes, but what he didn’t write about. Gornik describes three historical periods of development for inner city neighborhoods — the Segregated Inner City, the Post-Industrial Inner City and the Global Inner City. However, I think we may have entered a fourth stage, the Gentrified Inner City.

To Live in Peace was published in 2002, just as the so-called “Baltimore Renaissance” came into full swing. Until the crash of the housing market, some of Baltimore’s inner city communities were in the midst of rapid gentrification and redevelopment — Inner Harbor, Pig Town, Fells Point, Patterson Park, Dundalk and Canton all experienced a demographic shift as the yuppies moved in and property values rose. I live in a tiny row house in Fells Point, a traditionally blue-collar neighborhood now transformed into a tourist attraction with boutiques and condos. My landlord purchased the property for about $50,000 in the mid-80’s. Last time I looked at the tax records, the property was valued over $300,000. The vast amount of development in Baltimore City over the past decade has not been in the realm of affordable and middle-class housing, but luxury condos, hotels, a new conference center and expensive office space. The urban wasteland around Johns Hopkins University Hospital is being cleared away to make room for hospital expansion and a new biology research park. (more…)

Tom Sine wants to know what you’re doing

The New ConspiratorsBack in September, Tom Sine emailed me asking if members of YAR could read over the manuscript for The New Conspirators: Creating the Future One Mustard Seed at a Time. I emailed it out to regular contributors and invited feedback. The book looks at four streams of new Christian Expression – emerging, missional, mosaic and monastic. We’ll have a review of the book here on YAR coming soon.

The weekend before last, a bunch of folks (including a few from our sister network, the submergents) got together for the New Conspirators conference in Seattle. You can read Mark Van Steenwyk’s concluding report for the New Conspirators conference at Jesus Manifesto. It sounds an exciting time for folks from many streams to incubate ideas and imagine together. I very much wish I could have been there.

Today, I got an email from Tom with the following request:

Christine and I have been invited to keynote at the Mennonite Conference for North America in July. We would like to share bit of what you and your compatriots in the network are doing. Could you send me concrete examples of projects you are involved with? Could you also send me any creative examples of younger Anabaptists who are creating new expressions of church, community, advocacy, celebration and mission? We want to put older Mennos in touch with what you and other younger leaders are doing.

(more…)

Fire at the Simple Way

Yesterday morning starting at 3 am, a seven alarm fire swept through the bock in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia where the Simple Way community is based. No one was killed or injured, but eight families are now homeless and the Simple Way Community Center was destroyed. This video was put together by members of the community:

For those of you not familiar with the Simple Way community, it’s the mother ship for the New Monasticism movement which we’ve discussed here a number of times. (more…)