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British perspectives on small, intentional communities
Here be dynamite, and a window into the heart of Julian’s quest. Read the comments..
I read Kauffman’s “Follow Me” two years ago, a fascinating overview of the dual development of intentional communities across the centuries.
Great to hear of NM communities outside Europe and the US.
A recent development among Protestant radicals in the West, NM has spiritual roots in such ecumenical communities as Iona (Scotland), Taize (France) and Bose (Italy). Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s prediction about a ‘new monasticism’ and his intentional ‘Bruderhaus’ at Finkenwalde is sufficient evidence, many believe, for perceiving Bonhoeffer as some kind of neo-monastic prophet. Considering our rapidly secularising society, why are we not seeing similar examples of intentional communities in this country? I mentioned two factors yesterday:
- economic trajectory
- counter-cultural ideology
In South Africa, most people haven’t shared in enough prosperity to have become disillusioned with it. Secondly, with the SA Council of Churches endorsing a ‘critical solidarity’ with the government’s development programme (RDP), there is precious little distance from state power to maintain a prophetic voice, never mind a counter-culture.
“The Monastic Idea in South Africa: 1879 – present” is the working title of a new dissertation I’m doing at UKZN. It came out of a question I’ve been asking since 2000: why are no new monastic communities in South Africa? This term is a little more defined than ‘intentional community,’ and I explored it in relation to Bonhoeffer’s seminary at Finkenwalde in a MTh thesis (see earlier post). My conclusion was that South Africa doesn’t share the counter-cultural ideology and economic trajectories in the West which spawn Protestant NM movements. The present study aims to go deeper in exploring the monastic idea or vision in this country.
A vague outline could look like this:
- the monastic idea – what is it, really?
- local monastic expressions:
- ecumenical / new monastic
A few questions immediately present themselves:
- Monastic idea: how would you define this? Are the following categories applicable: culture, charism, calling? What others are applicable?
- Time frame: 1879 marks the arrival of the Trappists in South Africa. Should it be earlier or later? Why?
- Location: South Africa or Southern? The latter would Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland – but how would this inflate the study?
A separate discussion thread for each monastic expression (above) would be helpful.
Was Dietrich Bonhoeffer the first New monastic? His ill-fated seminary at Finkenwalde had some of the hallmarks of a NM community – and it was DB who later wrote from prison:
the restoration of the church will surely come only from a new type of monasticism which has nothing in common with the old but a complete lack of compromise in a life lived in accordance with the Sermon on the Mount in the discipleship of Christ. I think it is time to gather people together to do this.