26 February 2006

modern monks

Remember the awesome 70's videos in your freshman religious studies class where the young tibetan boy wants to become a monk so he goes and camps out at the monastery front door, knocking and being refused, knocking and being refused, knocking and being refused? Finally, eventually, they let him in. Fast-forward-future -- he's indistinguishable from the rest, bowing and muching rice in time with the rest of the saffron colored crowd. For the cynical seminarian, this tidy arrangement probably sounds dangerously tempting.

Looking ahead to my field education year here at ye olde seminarrie, I've been church-hopping with the rest of the froshes ( read: juniors. At seminary we can't be freshmen, we are juniors, then middlers, then seniors. This is in line with the dining hall that can't be a dining hall, but rawther a refectory, daaahhhhling ). Since I've done time with the Anglo-Catholics, the charismatics, and the evangelicals, the biggies and the littlies, for richer and for poorer, the about-to-dies and the up-and-comings, I've been thinking, what am I looking for in field-ed? The answer that's come to me is anything-but-white. Anything but another sea of caucasian faces.
So, I head up to St. Augustine's -- where their mission is to reach the people of the African Diaspora. They're in a clergy hunt, so a no-go. Then a Chinese congregation where the financial crisis lecture dominated the bulletin, the sermon, and the announcements, and none of the 6 other people there had much to say to me. Today was a lot better, but they weren't hip to the field ed idea. They were the most welcoming church I've been to so far in the Bay Area though. I ended up having bbq pork danish for breakfast with them and rice, broccoli, chicken, egg lunch with them and two services! Word is there are some seminarians at another Chinese church out west, so I guess I'm going to knock again on the door of the non-whites next Sunday. I wonder what the magic Bay Area number of knocks is?

Another brand of modern monks on my radar is this new monasticism thing. It has gripped a couple of Matt's old evangelical homies into living communally in urban areas and working on social welfare. Some of these former suburbanite princes are self-avowed pacifists! A couple things for devotional pondering on these dudes, though: why are they pretending to be apolitical if they are also proudly claiming pacifism and challenging corporate domination? And why monks - isn't that a dude-only word? Is the evangelical patriarchy even harder to shake than its sacred cow of capitalism?

I gotta say it: God is like pajama pants - always even better than I remembered.


Blogger CJA said...

I'd like to hear why "anything but white" is such a primary criterion for you.

And, at CDSP, we don't call them juniors, middlers, and seniors. We call them entering, continuing, and graduating. So there's more slang for you.

4:53 PM  
Blogger Steph said...

Not sure if I totally get your question about monk being a "dude-only" word, but my understanding of it is that it has gained the meaning of anyone who is following a monastic rule/living a monastic life. Technically, I myself am a monk. We generally more often use the term "woman monastic" but .... it's the same thing.

6:11 PM  
Blogger Zinnhead said...

john told me yesterday that there are 8 million Anglicans in Kenya. I just figure I ought to get as broad a picture as I can of what it really means to be part of this family.

And while I understand that new monastics intend monk to stand for all genders, "woman monastic" seems to imply to me that monk is for dudes only. If you have the opportunity to form an organization, why not choose something more neutral?

9:06 AM  
Blogger Marshall said...

I've been interested in the various orders and communities within the Episcopal Church (a technical distinction: all follow a common rule in a professed life, but orders live in community and communities do not [yeah, it seems odd to me, too]) for a long time. One thing I have noted is that new communities and orders seem to pop up in each generation, as if there were no existing communities and orders with whom to connect.

There is one community of which I am aware that seems to me pursuing the "new monasticism" as defined on that web site. It is the Rivendell Community, dedicated to providing clergy to small churches that could not otherwise afford them. Their web site is http://rivendellcommunity.org/.

As an Associate as the Order of the Holy Cross, I have my own commitment to living out the monastic tradition within my own life. I'm reassured that the "new monasticism" isn't dismissive of the long, rich monastic decision.

2:26 PM  

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