Cave, Refectory, Road: Monastic Rhythms for Contemporary Living by Ian Adams

(Norwich; Canterbury Press, 2010)

Great to read this little book with the post-denominational musings from my last post still prattling around in my head.  This book speaks the language of my heart.  I read myself in it.  And I wish that I could birth a community from it.

Ian Adams is a C of E priest/artist/author/ex-abott/missional communities facilitator/spirituality activitist living in south-west of England.  The book is an explanation and exploration of contemporary experimentation with monasticism.  His simple but moving poems are littered through-out the book and they shift us into a different space: to read more slowly, notice the beauty, wonder about God and search for ourselves amidst the true and the good.  Here is one I love, called ‘What does it take?’

What does it take

to mark the canvas

to write the line

to play the chord

to plough the field

to cross the river

to change the world?


the courage

to let become

what is waiting to become

Very simple, Ian considers monastic distinctives of old and suggests how they might take on a contemporary form that plays with the elements of cave (withdrawal and prayer) ; refectory (hospitality and locality) ; and road (engagement).  This includes looking at the monastic rhythm of life, spiritual formation, simplicity (poverty), devotion (chastity), humility (obedience), rootedness (stability) and crossing the boundaries of our comfort zone.  In a sense, there is nothing radical about the task of ‘new monasticism’ – I know of at at least 3 Melbourne communities who have undergone this task for themselves) – but finding soulfriends on the emerging journey is just so important and this book feels like a friend.

My favourite chapter is the one on devotion (no surprise if you’ve been following my blog for a while!)  Let me share a bit that moved me to tears:

“In the same way that our ongoing love for our partner or spouse finds particular expression in the intimacy of our kiss or love-making, the cave or prayer space can be the setting in which our wider awareness of and love for the Holy can reveal itself.  Like the kiss, like the making of love, this encounter space both emerges from and calls us into a whole life of love and affection, attention and devotion to the loved one.”

You can read more about Ian and what he’s into at

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