A fresh crop of Christian communities is blossoming in blighted urban settings all over America.
by Rob Moll
What is New Monasticism? Scott Bessenecker, director of global projects for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, describes it like this; "an emerging movement of youth taking up residence in slum communities in the same spirit that I find in the start of the Franciscans and the early Celtic orders, in the Nestorian mission, and in the Jesuits."
Bessenecker is working on a book about these "new friars," as he calls them. There's a similar spirit among communities like the Simple Way, who call their movement the "new monasticism." Like earlier movements, the ones today attract mostly 20-somethings who long for community, intimacy with Jesus, and to love those on the margins of society. And they are willing to give up the privileges to which they were born.The article includes profiles of a couple of these "new friars" that are familiar faces to many of us -Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw.
There's some great stuff about Shane's community, The Simple Way, including the story of how The Simple Way stood up to the city of Philadelphia's discriminatory laws against the homeless.
Chris Haw is introduced under the title "Willow's Environmentalist Disciple."
Haw's concern for the environment began when he was a high-school student in Crystal Lake, Illinois. At Willow Creek Community Church, Chris first learned about social injustice. A group of interns, one of whom was Claiborne, "started asking questions about our way of life as contrasted with the call of the kingdom. I was taught about sweatshops, injustices, homeless people, mercy to the outsider, and other things unfamiliar to me." Haw learned to be a disciple of Jesus. "Willow Creek taught me that 90 percent discipleship is 10 percent short of full devotion," he says. "I took them at their word and set out to work through giving all."
Chris is living out his passion in Camden, NJ, one of the most dangerous and polluted cities in the nation. The local factories "spew so many toxins on the neighborhood that when Chris, a schoolteacher at Sacred Heart's Catholic school, takes his students outside for gym class, children sometimes throw up."
To read more about the "new friars" and the ways they are bring hope to America's most hopeless urban settings, check out the entire article at Christianity Today.