'the restoration of the church'
Last year we read Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer at a 'school of defiance' meeting for my church. It was recommended as a read by someone else and we reluctantly went with it. I had read the book seven years before and was not very impressed. But as I began to prepare for our study, pulling up more notes on Bonhoeffer and the experiment at Finkenwalde I began to see the book with new eyes.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian who lived during the early parts of the last century. His most famous works are The Cost of Discipleship, Life Together, and Letters and Papers from Prison. Letters and Papers from Prison was written during his time under arrest by the Nazis, leading to his death in a concentration camp. But before his arrest he led an underground seminary in a town called Finkenwalde. It only existed for a short time before being shut down by the Nazi government, but while it was still open it was structured more like a monastic community than a typical seminary. After it was shuttered Bonhoeffer took what he learned and how he had structured life at the seminary to form the book Life Together.
The night of our Life Together study we had a great and lively discussion with each person coming away more renewed by the book than disappointed. A few days later, thinking about the church and discipleship, I began to see what Life Together contained was a possible rule of life for the church today. It wasn't clear on its face that a book about the order of an intentional community could be expanded to work for a congregation that primarily met on Sunday then dispersed for the week. But the longer I circled around the idea the backbone of a common rule of life became increasingly clear.
What Bonhoeffer says in a letter to his brother is also a thought that's expanding in the church these days:
'...the restoration of the church will surely come only from a new type of monasticism which has nothing in common with the old but a complete lack of compromise in a life lived in accordance with the Sermon on the Mount in the discipleship of Christ. I think it is time to gather people together to do this...'
Extract of a letter written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer to his brother Karl-Friedrick on the 14th of January, 1935.
Whether it's like Benedict Option or closer to the Neo-Monasticism of Shane Claiborne we're often being presented with ways in which a monastic-like movement could lead to renewal for the church.
So over the next couple of weeks I'd like to take time to tease this idea out more and present it as an idea for V&B.