Refuse to be Passive

Living and Purpose in the Inner City

In Uncategorized on March 10, 2013 at 12:38 pm

I live in the inner city. It’s just outside the downtown core. When I told my friends that I was going to be moving into my neighbourhood in Little Italy, most of my friends and family were taken aback. While some were supportive, in general the responses I got ran along the lines of, “don’t walk alone after dark”, “it’s dangerous, aren’t you scared you’ll get shot?” and the most blunt, “are you nuts?”

But the refrain I hear right now is an acoustic set on guitar paired with a smoky female voice. I sit in a packed out community run coffee house that is smack in the middle of the inner city. People from all walks of life attend, some have walked from their homes a block away, while some have driven in from the suburbs from this even. The coffee shop is a homey mishmash of furniture, and the make-shift stage enhances the positive vibe filling the room.

My Americano is brewing and my lemon and pistachio biscotti beckons to me. There is a young man sitting just behind me who has brought in a vintage camera for the event and is snapping pictures and winding film. The song has switched to “You Are My Sunshine.” And it’s probably the best version of this song I’ve ever heard. As the song ends, the singer takes the time to tell a little about herself. At only fifteen, her voice and abilities are far beyond her years.

And this amazing experience is within walking distance of my tiny apartment. Doesn’t it sound like a place you’d want to be?

As I walked toward the coffee shop today, having no idea of what a treat was in store, I found myself giving thanks for the sunshine and feeling incredibly blessed to be living the life I am.  But even with amazing events going on such as this, people are still wary of the inner city.

The inner city does have some detrimental aspects that give it this negative reputation. A high homeless population, drugs, prostitution, low income resulting in unkempt or old houses, and low education rates that are associated with elevated crime rates. That being said, unless you go looking for trouble in the neighbourhood, you probably won’t find it.  This is the second city in which I’ve lived in the inner city, and never have I felt unsafe. Simple good sense takes you a long way.

The area in which I’ve chosen to live requires a lot of work and love to get away from its current status. And it will take even more work to make the rest of the city realize what a fantastic place it can be. It will take people who are willing to live in and commit their lives to becoming part of the solution to the things that create heartbreak in the neighbourhood. 

I was raised in a low-income neighbourhood. I was also raised by loving parents who taught me the importance of serving others and being a positive influence in the world. I suppose it is no surprise then, that I feel called to a life where I live in place that others find undesirable while aiming to be part of the solution that brings healing to that place.

A few years ago I was introduced to the concept of The New Monasticism. It has several features that focuses on building community in the place that you live, and living a life that goes beyond yourself, but is lived in service of God and others. It believes in love. Love for all those around us, not just those we feel comfortable around. Over the next series of blog posts, I’ll touch on the different aspects of the new monasticism. I don’t profess to be an expert, but I’ll do my best to express what I know and have experienced of living out my faith in Christ and the call to love on a daily basis.


Marks of the New Monasticism


  1. Relocation to Abandoned Places of the Empire
  2. Sharing Economic Resources with Fellow Community Members and the Needy Among Us
  3. Hospitality to the Stranger
  4. Lament for Racial Divisions within the Church and our Communities, Combined with the Active Pursuit of a Just Reconciliation
  5. Humble Submission to Christ’s Body, the Church
  6. Intentional Formation in the Way of Christ and the Rule of the Community Along the Lines of the Old Novitiate
  7. Nurturing Common Life Among Members of Intentional Community
  8. Support for Celibate Singles along with Monogamous Married Couples and their Children
  9. Geographical Proximity to Community Members who Share a Common Rule of Life
  10. Care for the Plot of Earth God’s Given to Us, Along with Support of Our Local Economies
  11. Peacemaking in the Midst of Violence and Conflict Resolution Along the Lines of Matthew 18
  12. Commitment to a Disciplined Contemplative Life

Schools for Conversion: 12 Marks of a New Monasticism ed. The Rutba House, 2005.


Now, some of these marks may seem confusing. Hopefully, over the next series of posts I can unpack them for you. Living in a New Monastic community doesn’t mean that all of the marks are followed to the full extent of their power, simply that these are guiding principles for many of the intentional communities that are linked to the New Monasticism.


Ultimately, the New Monasticism comes down to being a group of people who practice intentional hospitality, spiritual growth and discipleship, and aim to develop ourselves as faithful followers of Jesus.  These are groups of people who share a common life and guidelines or “rules” for living.


I was introduced to the concept of The New Monasticism a number of years ago, but didn’t take the opportunity to live it out as a member of a community until I spent a year living in Toronto. Now, moving into my neighbourhood in Edmonton, I hope to start a New Monastic Community in my new neighbourhood. But first comes prayer, some miracles, and a community of people with hearts joined together. First, comes a discussion of what it means and how it could look to live intentionally to bring positive change to this inner city neighbourhood.


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