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The Musings of an Urban Monk 

The idea of people using their lives to rest in and enjoy the presence of God, particularly within a city, is surprising to many people - Simon Jones on living a monastic existence in London


TheMusingsofanUrbanMonk300I don’t like labels. Being an urban monk could just be another label. We tend to label each other in society. He’s a doctor; she’s an accountant. He preaches; she helps with the children’s work.

Even when calling this book The Musings of an Urban Monk, I was nervous of this being just another label, particularly as its aim is to help people find their true identity as sons and daughters of the Father.

Our deepest identity is always beyond any labels we can place on each other. However, when a friend of mine suggested this title, I couldn’t resist, and another friend had used the same phrase, ‘urban monk’, some seven years before to describe my calling, much earlier on in this journey. That’s what it really is – a calling – a monastic call.

We have tended to see a call to prayer and solitude as confined to people who are celibate or live in Anglican or Catholic monasteries, but my discovery has been that this calling can exist outside of monasteries. In the same way that some are called to preach, to pastor or to evangelise, others are called to prayer.

If we look to Celtic Christian communities in these Islands in the fifth sixth and seventh centuries, they tended to be monastic in shape, but they also involved married people, those who travelled and preached and people from all the different areas of life – medicine, education, hospitality and crafts.

The call to prayer and solitude was within this, but anyone could be a part of these communities, and many individuals in that time followed a call to prayer either within their communities or off in solitude somewhere.

When I finished Bible college in 2003, I realised I needed to pursue something other than finding a career or going into ministry, and so I started taking time out with the Lord, and then over time taking longer retreats away in the countryside.

it is really about the nature of God, and who He is as a loving Father who loves us no matter what

From 2011 to 2015 I also had the privilege of working in and helping to run a contemplative prayer centre in north London. This meant that I essentially got to live a monastic existence for that time, within a city. We were there not just to welcome the many Christians from the town to use the retreat, but first and foremost to pursue and create a sense of God’s presence ourselves.

Our world is so busy and so focused on activity that the idea of people using their lives to rest in and enjoy the presence of God, particularly within a city, is a surprising idea to many people. This book is a collection of smaller writings from that season of working in the retreat.

The writings themselves speak to people of who they truly are as sons and daughters of our heavenly Father.

I have wanted to speak into the way we separate out the Love and the Holiness of God into two parts of His character. We feel safe with the Loving part but can’t help feeling afraid of the Holy part, which we have believed is angry with us for our sin.

But in this I’m not wanting to discuss theologies; I’m hoping that people may be able to see into our Father’s heart and encounter the Love that is there.

We are in a season of church history where God is revealing His love as a Father’s love in a way like never before.

There are many new movements and new theories within the church. Some are good and some perhaps are not as good, but He’s revealing to us that He loves us for who we are, not for what we do. That is not a movement or a theory. That is a reality.

In the book I am saying that we often think of love as a choice – something we must ‘do’ in order to be Christlike.

But I believe love is a reality, an essence that is within God, and we can love as we live in His love, His love for us. So while the book touches on some of the riches of contemplative spirituality, it is really about the nature of God, and who He is as a loving Father who loves us no matter what.

We all need to know this. And we need to know it in our hearts.

Simon Jones has spent a lot of the last 12 years exploring contemplative spirituality and going off on retreats. He received a revelation of the Father's love, in the midst of this time. For four years he helped run a prayer centre in Watford. He and his wife Nathalie are currently in a season of waiting on God to see where He wants them next.

The Musings of an Urban Monk is published by Instant Apostle and is available from Christian bookshops and online retailers.

Baptist Times, 25/08/2015
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