I am a Cistercian Associate – that’s akin to a Benedictine Oblate or Franciscan or Carmelite Tertiaries. These are ways of living out the Cistercian, or Benedictine, or Franciscan, or Carmelite charisms – and beyond monastery and convent walls.
I recently read Sister Teresa Jackson’s insight that oblates express new forms of Benedictine life:
At a time when there are fewer traditional vocations to the Benedictine life perhaps we need to ask whether a new reality is staring us in the face and we are failing to recognize it because we keep looking for what is past. We are standing at the tomb of Benedictine life as it has been, clinging to what we have known while a completely new form of life is calling our name.
Perhaps we do not have a vocation crisis, after all. Perhaps the vocations are just coming in a new form that we have trouble recognizing.
And as I read that article, I kept thinking I was actually more reading about new forms of Christian life than new forms of monastic life.
I have said before,
We have previously learnt from David Putnam’s Bowling Alone – people are still bowling; they are just doing it alone and not joining bowling clubs. People are still seeking meaning and spirituality – they are just doing it alone.
Churches, the Anglican and other mainline denominations, no matter how often they are reminded, are stuck in a parish paradigm. Christian life and ministry may be happening in schools, homes, workplace, and so forth – but, however often people may ‘protest’, time and again at official diocesan meetings I (and everyone) am asked to fill in what parish I belong to. Belonging to a school or other ministry unit just won’t do.
Parishes, of course, are part of the Christendom we are now post.
And younger people simply don’t work on the 10am-Eucharist-at-St-Anselm’s approach. The days of meeting at a certain time at a certain place died with the invention of the cell phone. Young people head to town and then message friends to meet. The church has not got the paradigm shift. What priest goes to a church building on a Friday evening and sets a viral message going, “Hey, I’m at St Anselm’s – see you here in half an hour for a Eucharist followed by pizza before heading into town to party.” Sunday is also changing in the post-Christendom world. Sunday morning always at 10 am is not the future for many for whom Sunday is simply another work day. It’s not even the present.
What ways can you think of that Christianity is changing? And needs to change?