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New Monasticism, or Neomonasticism, is a modern day iteration of a long tradition of Christian monasticism that has recently developed within certain Christian communities.


The origin of the new monastic movement is difficult to pinpoint. A crucially important fact is that the new monasticism is a reformed movement and is in no way done in cooperation with the Catholic Church. Some communities now identified with new monasticism have been in existence since the 1970s and 80s. Other well-known communities, such as the Simple Way in Philadelphia formed in the mid-90s.

The notion and terminology of “new monasticism” was developed by Jonathan Wilson, in his 1998 book called Living Faithfully in a Fragmented World. Wilson was, in turn, building on ideas of philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre. Noting the decline of local community that could sustain the moral life, MacIntyre ended his book After Virtue, by voicing a longing for “another . . . St. Benedict.” By this he meant someone in the present age to lead another renewal of morality and civility through community. Wilson identified with that longing in his own book, but outlined a vision to carry it forward within the Christian tradition.

Calling the vision a “new monasticism,” he proposed four characteristics that such a monasticism would entail: (1) it will be “marked by a recovery of the telos of this world” revealed in Jesus, and aimed at the healing of fragmentation, bringing the whole of life under the lordship of Christ; (2) it will be aimed at the “whole people of God” who live and work in all kinds of contexts, and not create a distinction between those with sacred and secular vocations; (3) it will be disciplined, not by a recovery of old monastic rules, but by the joyful discipline achieved by a small group of disciples practicing mutual exhortation, correction, and reconciliation; and (4) it will be “undergirded by deep theological reflection and commitment,” by which the church may recover its life and witness in the world.
New Monastic Shane Claiborne with Ron Copeland and Brian Farrell at Our Community Place, Harrisonburg, VA 2008.
The summer of 2004 became a defining moment for the movement, when there was a gathering of a number of existing communities and academics in Durham, North Carolinamarker, where they drew together something like a "rule of life," referred to as the "12 marks" of new monasticism. The gathering took place at a new monastic community called "Rutba House," of which some founding members were Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Leah Wilson-Hartgrove. Not coincidentally, Leah is a daughter of Jonathan Wilson whose writing has galvanized the movement.

Common Themes


Most new monastic communities emphasize the following:

  1. Thoughtful, prayerful, and contemplative lives
  2. Communal life (expressed in a variety of ways depending on the community)
  3. A focus on hospitality
  4. Practical engagement with the poor

The "Twelve Marks" of a New Monasticism

The Twelve Marks of new monasticism express the common thread of many new monastic communities.These "marks" are:

  1. Relocation to the "abandoned places of Empire" [at the margins of society]
  2. Sharing economic resources with fellow community members and the needy among us
  3. Hospitality to the stranger
  4. Lament for racial divisions within the church and our communities combined with the active pursuit of a just reconciliation
  5. Humble submission to Christ’s body, the Church
  6. Intentional formation in the way of Christ and the rule of the community along the lines of the old novitiate
  7. Nurturing common life among members of intentional community
  8. Support for celibate singles alongside monogamous married couples and their children
  9. Geographical proximity to community members who share a common rule of life
  10. Care for the plot of God’s earth given to us along with support of our local economies
  11. Peacemaking in the midst of violence and conflict resolution within communities along the lines of Matthew 18
  12. Commitment to a disciplined contemplative life

New Monastic Literature

The New Monastic movement has an extensive library of texts which include the following.

Differences from "Traditional" Christian Monasticism

The movement differs from other Christian Monastic movements in many ways.

  1. A rule of life is associated with the New Monastic movement though traditional monastic vows of celibacy, poverty and obedience are not normally taken as the Benedictines, Cistercians, Carthusians, Basilians and others do.
  2. The movement does not always live in a single place but geographic proximity is emphasized by the movement.
  3. The movement allows married couples. The Springwater community, in Portlandmarker, Oregonmarker has membership that includes both married couples and celibate singles.
  4. The movement does not have a religious habit.

See also


  • Mike Broadway and Isaac Villegas, "A New Monasticism," Radix vol. 31 no. 4 (2005): pp. 12–28.


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