catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 7, Num 6 :: 2008.03.21 — 2008.04.04


So I'm thinking of joining a monastery...

Joining a monastery was not exactly on my “what I want to do when I grow up” list. It was not even a possibility in my mind, nor in the minds of anyone around me. Reformed folks don't join monasteries. We get married and have lots of kids and work hard at our jobs (preferably jobs that use our unique gifts) so we can make a difference in the world. Perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration, but joining a monastery seems to be antithetical to what most people understand to be the calling of a Reformed Christian.

Yet, my thoughts on joining a monastery do somewhat fit in with (Reformed) Christianity as I've grown to know it and love it more. The church I went to while I was in seminary instilled in me a love for liturgy, following the Christian year closely and having Lord's Supper every week. During college, I was encouraged and challenged to pray with and for others daily; my desire to pray with others has only grown since then. Growing up, my parents instilled in me a desire not to live a selfish life but instead to make space in my life for others and share what I have. I have been encouraged by the church to live out my faith in all of what I say and do—and share it with people who have not yet heard. I've discovered that living in a Christian community provides an amazing and challenging way to combine all of these things.

Even as much as joining the community of Oudezijds 100 provides amazing possibilities, there is still something distinctly odd about it. The community in Amsterdam is a bit different than what one expects when one hears the word “monastery.” There are still expectations of obedience, chastity and poverty, but these are modified so that members are held accountable in the community, they can still get married and have children, and they can still have regular jobs (in fact they'd like me to have one–it helps pay the bills). And as far as engaging with the world, the community's in the middle of the Red Light District and we interact with our neighborhood both in and outside of our doors.  Sometimes it feels like we're a little too engaged with the world!

As I already participate in this community, I am encouraged to explore how my gifts might fit with the gifts and needs in the community. I've been given structure to pray daily for the world, the church and the communities of which I am a part. I live with people whom I would never even have met before becoming part of the community—which is, as you might expect, sometimes a bit more of an adventure than I'd like! Through our prayers and laughter and shared meals and events, we pray that we may be a light and that we might share hope. And my wanting to be part of that seems to be a good desire that God has placed on my heart.

Even with all of the wonderful possibilities involved in joining the community, I'm not sure yet whether I will fully join the community. It's not just that Sister Brenda (or Zuster Brenda, as they say in Dutch) has a bit of an odd ring to it. More so, like many of my generation, I'm not entirely sure what's next in my life.  I know I'd like to teach the Old Testament and serve God, but where and how much are pretty large deciding factors. There are many people and communities in my life whom I love and who would be affected by my decision to join a monastery. As much as the thought of joining the community in Amsterdam fills me with joy, I know that joy would disappear without a sense that this is the place that God would have me best serve Him among the communities of which I am part. As I keep seriously considering this crazy notion of joining a monastery, I pray that no matter where I end up, all that I've learned from the community in Amsterdam about living wholly for God will continue to grow and be nourished.

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