Intentional Christian Community, i.e. “New Monasticism”

About 9 years ago I first moved into a christian intentional community in the poorest postal code in Canada.

It was a house teaming with children, singles and marginalized folk.  Dinners happened almost every night and anybody was welcome who made it up the steep flight of steps. The leaders were radicals in many ways, trailblazers, visionaires.  The nightly conversation was contentious, debates heated, and friendships deep.  People visited who were addicted, mentally ill, curious Christians from the local seminary, young high school students stunned, and regular anybodies. 

 I can never forget being blessed by a crack-addicted friend with schizophrenia while having coffee. 

 I scavenged their bookshelves for the likes of Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day, and the like.  I also fell in love- sort of – well that love story happened after I moved out- and yes, I’m married to him now. 

This inspired me to start my own little Christian community in university, not quite as intense- but with some spiritual commitment to each other and to welcoming others. 

Since getting married we found a rented place down the street- we have always had people living with us although our house has never reached full community state.  We continue to open up our house to those who want to talk, have coffee and join us for dinner although it is no large scale endeavor.  Our rhythm of prayer and shared meals has fluctuated.  However, as I’m nearing a close on my schooling we want to renew our vision towards community.  Towards committing to pray and meet together and support each other in the teachings of Christ to welcome those to dinner who can’t invite or pay you back (we still do invite those who do reciprocate and do love when anybody helps with dishes or anything around the house). 

 It can be a hard life to live and sometimes I wonder if it would be best just to live as a little nuclear family.  We actually did that as a family this past summer while travelling in the Middle East- and it was quite quiet and a bit lonely actually.  I think it is our passion to life this type of radical life in the inner city and we would like to continue with the support of others. 

In the past number of years Christians have come up with tons of new ways to describe this way of being a Christian including New Monasticism (Shane Claibourne, etc.), missional churches /living, etc.  I haven’t done too much reading on these terms but I do think our life and church life may fit those descriptions. 

In this modern age with extended families being so spread apart we need each other in the body of Christ more and more.  In that way living in cooperation with others make sense (although it more often fails than succeeds and people can get hurt this way- warning!).  It’s definitely not all easy and exciting. But it is highly reccomended if you want to welcome marginalized people in your personal life- you need support, you need help with saying no sometimes, you need people for safety – just in case.  It’s a practical reason why us inner-city christian folk live together.  We also need each other’s prayer and friendship to keep Jesus at the centre and make sure we are remembering to take joy in life.