Living Simply

Living simply can be pretty simple, some say

Simple living may appear intimidating to people who have only read about it or maybe know someone who practices that spiritual discipline.

Does it mean having to wear hemp clothing to church, digging a well in the backyard or going “off the grid” and living in isolation?

It doesn’t mean any of that, according to Christians who live or study the intersection between simplicity and their faith. In fact, they say, living simply is, well, pretty simple.

jessica joshua hearne200Joshua and Jessica Hearne“Simple living is no more complicated than a commitment to removing the excess from your life and recognizing how many of your possessions are excess,” said Joshua Hearne, executive director of Third Chance Ministries and abbot at Grace and Main Fellowship, a Danville, Va.-based organization that adheres to the new monasticism movement.

Simple living can be practiced by anyone, whatever their context, Hearne insisted.

“It can be just paring down your possessions, getting by with a little less, and that often means finding ways to do more with less things,” he said.

Of course for many, including Hearne, the lifestyle can go much further.

The new monasticism movement started in June 2004 with a conference in Durham, N.C., whose participants devised rules for living in intentional communities, Christianity Today reported.

‘New monasticism’

They modeled themselves after ancient and more recent church thinkers, including Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and used the term “new monasticism” from the book Living Faithfully in a Fragmented World by Jonathan R. Wilson.

Common denominators between the groups that developed include submitting to the larger church, living with the poor, living with or in proximity to other ministry members, shared economy, peacemaking, creation care and reconciliation, Hearne said.

roland thirdchance425Roland, a member of the Grace and Main community in Danville, Va., cares for a flower bed. (Joshua Hearne Photo)Rutba House in Durham and Grace and Main in Danville are communities typical of the movement.

The movement and its offshoots emphasize a Christian faith marked by adherence to the example of intentional poverty and simplicity displayed by Jesus in the Gospels, Hearne said. He and his wife, Jessica, serve as Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel.

The lifestyle also is marked by practices of hospitality that include inviting strangers and homeless to live in homes, feeding the poor and communal living.

Among Baptists, the inspiration to live more simply dates back to at least the 1960s, when the Second Vatican Council led to more ecumenical dialogue between Catholic leaders and Protestants, said Loyd Allen, professor of church history and spiritual formation at the McAfee School of Theology in Macon, Ga.

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