Interview number four is with Ian Mobsby from Wellspring Community, Peckham. During April 2016, while most of our community was on a 30 day Silent Retreat, Jonathan and I spent one of those weeks staying in Peckham with Ian. We joined in their prayer services in the mornings and evenings and during the day visited various New-Monastic projects across London.
Ian Mobsby, Wellspring Community, Peckham
Interview via email, February 2017 (see follow up October 2017 below)
1. How did you get involved in new-monasticism?
By background I was experienced by Taizé as an experience that led me to become a Christian from being an atheist. Later on as a curate serving a curacy in a parish church in central London I was involved in setting up a fresh expression of church seeking to reach out in mission to the de and unchurched. This in time developed into having a rhythm of life and grew into a form of new monastic missional community. I led this into becoming a large project called the Moot Community that developed a central London mission at the Guild Church of St Mary Aldermary with a café church and a rhythm of events promoting Christianity through contemplative spirituality and wellbeing.
2. Previously you were heavily involved in Moot Community, what type of Community was that?
It was a new monastic community, and a network church with people coming from all over London as well as serving the spiritual needs of those working in the city of London. It has a rhythm of life spiritual practices. I did this for 13 years. After I left they have paused in some aspects of the ROL and have just appointed a new Priest in Charge to help develop things further – I left a year and a half ago.
3. What are you doing currently?
I have moved to a parish in Peckham with some members of Moot to set up a mother house in the Clergy House, and develop a new monastic community in the parish of St Luke’s Camberwell in Peckham. This then is exploring a charism and way of life in Peckham which is very different need to the City of London. It is calling itself the Wellspring Community Peckham. There is now daily morning and evening prayer in the church, Sunday evening contemplative services and a gathering in the house every Tuesday evening for meal and community. See www.stlukespeckham.co.uk
4. How has your previous experiences in church and community life shaped how you’ve approached this new venture?
I am very influenced by the fresh expressions movement and its approach to mission and evangelism, particurlarly around contextualisation of the gospel. This influences my approach, and concerned about the spiritual needs of those who are spiritual not religious, and how we renew the church. So I am a part time priest in charge of the parish and half time mission enabler in the episcopal area.
5. What are the particular joys and challenges of having an intentional community within your church?
I love living with members of the community
I love the rhythm of prayer and dialogue
I love how this approach to being Christian is a way of living authentically in the 21st century.
6. What particular saints or people of history guide your ethos as a Community?
I am very influenced by the writings of Shane Claiborne, Richard Rohr, Abbot Jamieson. As a community we are very influenced by the Benedictine, Franciscan and Ignatian traditions and practices. We are very influenced by this.
7. What to you is new monasticism and how does what you’re doing fit into the wider movement?
So I am passionate about new monasticism, we held a conference in the autumn to seek to promote it as a way of being missional and deeply Christian. Christian community is very important to me and a really important approach to formation. It is a way of Christian discipleship, and it is interesting now that a lot of diocese are interested in developing forms of new monasticism including the Archbishop of Canterbury.
8. How would you define discipleship?
Discipleship is about the beliefs, practices and way of life (sometimes called orthopathy, orthodoxy and orthopraxis) determining a way of following the way of Jesus as modelled in the gospels and talked about in the letters of the apostles. There is no one way of discipleship, there are different models, the new monastic, drawing on the religious life, is one way amongst many ways. In new monasticism discipleship is determined by seeking to live a way of life and make seasonal vows or promises.
9. Have you seen new monasticism effective in discipling Christians? If so, how?
In the religious life there are different spaces of belonging, traditionally aspirant, novice and professed. New Monastics have played with this system of growing into discipleship with similar terms of aspirant, participant and third space is what we have used with different seasonal promises or vows for these different spaces of belonging. It is therefore really clear about a sense of maturation process of discipleship, and the responsibility of the community to support people on this spiritual journey. I think this is particularly relevant to state the world is in at the moment, which feels in some ways lie a new dark age, where things are complex, and problematic, that formation through a ROL and seasonal vows is a way of understanding the Christian faith by living it.
10. How would you encourage traditional monastic communities to reach young people?
Some traditional communities are experimenting with third orders or having houses as part of their community with people who are not making first order vows, but forms of seasonal promises. For example the Franciscan Third order has lots of younger people in it. Things like Taizé are a great example of what is possible. Some Anglican communities in this country have lots of younger aspirants at the moment testing vocation. So I think it is a really good idea that traditional communities explore how they can build new monastic forms of community around them in the world as a possible path way.
Follow up October 2017
1. Since February, how has your community, now Wellspring Community Peckham, changed and formed?
Really pleased to say it has grown slowly but surely. Its a challenge seeking to do a new monastic community in a parish where financial resources are tight. I am pleased that the community that is forming is really focusing on loving service and the challenge of assisting the poor – particularly poor families. This is a work in progress but I am really pleased the new monastic community is praying everyday somedays there are over 10 people praying at 7.30am in the morning in St Lukes Church – so so moving. Starting with forming a praying community is a good start.
The challenge is next how we engage with the spiritual not religious and develop service to the poor.
2. Tell us about the Anglican Religious Communities Conference at Lee Abbey, in Devon. How did it work having traditional and new communities together?
My experience was mixed. It was wonderful spending time together – as traditional and emerging communities together. I sensed though the deep pain of some communities who are older and not finding new vocations, and feeling that much of the church does not understand or support the who role of traditional religious communities.
One challenge has to be how to hold together traditional and emerging. Some I fear can focus on differences or use ecclesiology and theology to emphasise difference rather than developing a way forward. So the conference was wonderful, and I love so many of the Orders who were present – emerging and traditional.
In a context of new and emerging forms of the religious life bubbling up all over the place, I am hoping for a more generous and encouraging context for things to move forward. A challenge to the ARC challenge has to be now how they can move forward being fully inclusive of acknowledged religious communities.