Trying to Define the Postmodern Monasteries

Much discussion going on about this. What is the difference between a “monastic” and an “ecclesiastic” model of church?

Aren’t monasteries where people go to retreat from life rather than engage?

Is the community in Austin a “monastic” structure at all and who cares?

Regarding the Austin community, and many of the similar communities in the global emerging culture, definition is only needed for the older folk, and not for those having success doing what is working.
Traditional minded people want definition and category of what the THING is, so they can then experience it or recommend it. Those already doing it know it works but sometimes cannot say why, or how it is different. And many of them don’t really care since explanation, in their world, follows experience rather than precedes it, if indeed it follows at all.

However, as someone committed to the ministry of poetry (creating and re:mixing vobabulary to express experience) and communication between cultures, I really am quite interested in definition, and in naming things lest they be equated with what they are NOT [easy] rather than what they are [harder].

Brad Sargent is one of the Theoblogians who has just moved into the “Austin Urban Monastery” (his words – I wont try to define it lest I get in trouble again with Nathan). He has some good thoughts on trying to name what is going on.
In his BeyondPostHuman blog, Brad writes:

. . . and meanwhile, the next wave of shifts in emerging cultures will already have taken place while we wait for the philosophers to produce their next wave of explanations. meanwhile, we, the tribal disciples who are in such emerging cultures, will be two leaps ahead of the rest of the church, because we will already be out there actively producing the cultures that the philosophers will be writing about and the others will be passively waiting to react to/against in the post-post-post-postmodern milieu. oops … i ranted! ‘scuse me!”

Well said, Brad. Reminds me of Lao Tzu:

“When we start to regulate or ‘put into order’ there will be names.

But when names have indeed come into being,

We must also know that it is time to stop.

Knowing [when] to stop is the way to avoid harm.” (Bamboo Slip Laozi, A:10)

Ponder that, Young Lotus!


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • brad says:

    thanks for using my own words from my blog about our thing in austin. that term is a relatively CURRENT name that i used as a temporary descriptor. i/we will likely figure out other names or non-names as time goes by. and who knows, we may even create our own media-rich case study on our experiences, as a way to demonstrate how we are living out our friendships and our faith. hey, that was a nice turn of phrase – think i’ll use that again!
    beyond just being politically correct, it is truly appropriate to let those who are of a group/tribe name themselves in whatever way(s) they choose and to change names at will if they so desire. therefore, people should expect that we would claim our right (and responsibility) to name ourselves if and however we so choose – and so i think nathan was more than justified in being peeved about being labeled in ways that he (and perhaps we) did not feel were appropriate from someone outside of our immediate household, even a friend of the family.
    back to our regularly scheduled comment: to quote the famous international philosopher, okay, so it was dana carvey, ‘to label me is to ignore me.’ if you know the people in our household at all, you know that no one could quite ever pin us down with a label of their choosing, any more than our own name(s) will ever fully describe ourselves. we’re much much more complex than that. in this household, we’re not even calvarminian bapticostals (though everyone present laughed at the moniker when I spewed it out) (and it’s not an original term) or anything close to any ‘residual’ theological system from the medieval or modern periods. rant-rant-rant
    also, with nods and applauds to Dan at theyblinked for his home-post of yesterday, i appreciate that your quotation from my blog speaks of emerging cultureS in the plural. monastic approaches are not ‘THE’ new right solution for all cultures – and there never ever ever will one right model for being/doing church this side of heaven. each (sub)culture in the emerging virtual tribal world will mix and re:mix its own soup of value clusters and cognitive worldview belief planks and corporate behaviors and ‘style’ factors, from which will organically flow theological emphases, structures, and methods that fit the tribal profile. and blah-dee-blah-dee-blah.
    so, any monastic approach to life and being/doing church/kingdom will vary from the core of monasticism as a method and a structure, accordng to the profile of the tribe, according to the unique composite profile of the people in the ‘project,’ and according to the unique profile of the setting (urban, suburban, rural, rurbal, etc.). (hence, global principles and universals applied to a local context = glocal in ways that were probably unintended by the originators of the term ‘glocal.’) i think it would be most helpful if we could figure out the core of monastic approaches (again, the plural, because there are at least two primary approaches, as noted in comments yesterday – the get-away-from-society approach primarily in the eastern deserts and the get-on-the-crossroads-of-society approach primarily on the celtic roadways), and then develop tools to help us understand the profiles of self, group, tribe, and culture, and how those interact in a dynamic system that we currently call ‘ministry.’ oh yeah! just remembered! that’s exactly what i came to austin to do! plus a wholistically lot more …
    finally (oh thank heavens!) i think the diablog on monasteries can be productive, as long as we refrain from turning any one form into the confinements of being THE ‘new’ model to duplicate without any reference to environment.

  • Andrew says:

    R U quite finished Brad?
    I need to buy a larger screen so I can read your comments!
    Thanks for that. Good stuff!!
    I will pop off to to see what Dan has posted.

  • Rich says:

    Ohhhhhhhhh, how I miss my beloved Austin for that reason. :^(

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