NO we are NOT living in a secluded commune!

How embarrassing! After all the news coverage we got last week, my friends and family now think I live in a COMMUNE!

Yes, a flipping’ “commune”! When I was a kid in school at Orewa, one of our teachers was a bushy-bearded hippie who lived in a Puhoi commune. We thought that was weird. It probably wasn’t as weird as we thought. But the designation as “commune” would never again be a positive thing in my mind.

I am not sure which of the reporters started called Ngatiawa a “secluded commune” [Dominion Post, perhaps?] but the misinformation spread and even the guy on TV used the word “commune”. I am hoping NZ Herald gets it right this weekend when they do their big spread. [Hello?]

The media can be terribly ignorant when it comes to reporting about religion. Surely it can’t be too hard to say the word “monastery”? Or “intentional community”?

Some corrections are due:

Firstly, we are not “secluded”. We are open to visitors all day long. In fact, my job today is to make tea and show hospitality to strangers, visitors and absolutely anyone who shows up. Every day there is someone on hospitality duty, keeping the tea pot warm and cooking nice little yummies for anyone who turns up.  There is a WiFi signal here that covers the entire community. We might be in a valley, and we might be ten minutes drive from the next big town, and its true we don’t have cell phone coverage, but we are not secluded.

Secondly, we are not a “commune”. Really! What kind of image does that conjure up? This is the number one Google search result for “commune”. [Warning: nudity below]


Yes, Google search is set to “moderate”, in case you were wondering.

And here is the poster from the movie “Commune”.

220px Commune FilmPoster

Are we are commune? NO we are not a commune! We actually are clothed here, most of the time, and we choose to sleep in our own beds and our vehicles do NOT look like this colourful bus that is actually the number 3 result for “commune” images on Google.


So what are we?

Ngatiawa  is part marae [Maori meeting place], part monastery, part intentional community. It is probably best described as a contemporary monastery, as opposed to a more traditional [ie, a middle ages type cloister for robed men with self-inflicted bald spots] monastery. You could even call it a “postmodern monastery”, a word used by NZ theologian Dr Steve Taylor who I have quoted before on monastic rhythms.

“A postmodern monastery – Combining authentic, low-budget group creativity with the task of preserving technical knowledge within the rhythms of prayer in order to cross the digital divide and catalyse open source spirituality.”   Steve Taylor, “Postmodern Monasteries” [PDF].

Contemporary monasteries are one of the newest movements in the global church and New Zealand has been keeping up the global trends, in some cases going beyond and further. In the UK the Anglicans are very excited about the new monastic movements as fresh expressions of church. Its a good thing. A healthy thing.

Nothing against communes here, in case you are currently living in a commune or starting one. In fact, after reading the Wikipedia definition of “commune” there is probably some value in the word.

Andrew Jacobs of The New York Times wrote that, contrary to popular misconceptions, “most communes of the ’90s are not free-love refuges for flower children, but well-ordered, financially solvent cooperatives where pragmatics, not psychedelics, rule the day.”[1] Wikipepedia

But here in New Zealand, where the hippie communes of the 1970’s still rule our memories, I can’t see us adopting the term. And anyway, winter is coming and I prefer to keep my clothes on.


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.


  • Methinks the man doth protest too much. 🙂
    Did they use the dreaded “hippie” term – I do think there are hippie elements to what you’re doing. And I say this as someone whose late parents had major hippie elements to their lifestyle. 🙂

  • Andrew says:

    methinks the reporter was reading your books, Becky.
    not disagreeing too much with you here.
    but as a blogger, i try to ask the question to people “how do you describe yourself” and then i try to blog in a way that they would resonate with my description. Just courtesy really. I am sure you do the same in your interviews

  • Simon says:

    It gets worse – when I tried that google search and scrolled down I got an image of Mitt Romney!

  • Jeremy Myers says:

    Bah! Just when I was thinking of joining you, you tell me I can’t walk around naked?
    So much for that….

  • Steve Hayes says:

    Really? What’s wrong with communes?
    Here was I thinking that the “new monasticism” thing was quite cool, a continuation of the commune movements of the 1960s, and now you go and disillusion me about that.
    Check this
    and this
    and above all this:
    Repent, I say, repent!

  • tony arcus says:

    Hi skinny, did you get that hard drive fixed. Also would a server be of use to your network there.

  • kate cremisino says:

    sadly i’ve found that nearly all news stories i’ve come across have some inaccurate element to them. i think it’s because reporters don’t have time to do thorough research. they just throw together a report without fact checking for total accuracy. i have seen this so many times… and it really irks me, especially as a writer. it’s really taught me not to trust every news report 100%.
    anyway, that’s awesome about justin.

  • ok they were NOT nude in the above picture… they were wearing MUD SUITS. i’m now using PoMoHippy CharisMystic cuz i think it’s semi- accurate
    … but mosly because it rhymes with supercalifragilistic …
    ps.. when i saw the articles, i sorta knew you were rolling your eyes at some of the slag tag terms they were trying to attach to yer tail. I rolled mine too.
    I could be accused of it more than most, but that’s basically because i think we were created to live in relationship and intentional communities are a good way to walk that out.
    you guys know you can always crash at my hippy house any day. x

  • David Brush says:

    It wasn’t the nudity that bothered me, it was the creepy guy way behind the middle person!

  • Simon says:

    I chuckled at the Kapiti News story which said you’d welcomed 11,000 visitors to Ngatiawa in the past year. Easily done, a comma in the wrong place. But it left me wondering about needing planning consent for construction of a large asphalt car park, or else a traffic light system on Terrace Road!

  • Andrew says:

    Only when Ngatiawa turns into the Taize of NZ, will we have to deal with traffic problems. Although PassionFest parking is a hassle with our narrow road.

  • John says:

    when you court publicity you loose the right to disclaim errant notions…

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