New Monasticism and the environment

Pastoral Review editor Professor Anthony Towey recently spoke to Richard Barnard, a member of Christian Climate Action, about the ‘Twelve Marks’ of the New Monasticism, and how they shape his Christian beliefs and environmental activism. Here is the transcript of that interview.

Anthony: Richard, just a quick word in terms of your good self and New Monasticism – the different approach to life that people like yourself have adopted during these last years.

Richard: My initial thoughts on New Monasticism are that it’s not all that new. I like the fact that through its ‘Twelve Marks’ it tries to bring old monastic spiritual practices into the contemporary world. I see it as a kind of prophetic call on the Church and Christian folk to a way of living rather than focusing on a set of beliefs and dogmas – if you like ‘creating a new world in the shadow of the old’, as Peter Maurin of the Catholic Worker Movement put it. And I think, crucially, rather than by fleeing from the world and going to live in the desert, it’s actually about locating ourselves in the world, but in ‘the abandoned places of the empire’ and so challenging that empire from within. And the reason why that’s monasticism rather than just another ‘thing’ is because the contemplative element of it is really key, as a challenge to a worldly way of doing things such that even when we’re trying to be good Christian folk, we don’t run around trying to do as many things as possible and take the Protestant work ethic too far. And actually, in order to challenge capitalism and the things that have got us into this mess, we might need a bit more contemplative practice, a bit more looking out of the window at trees rather than writing in a book.

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