Monastery New Sion

Peter Dullaert

More | Personal Experiences

Monastery New Sion

Peter Dullaert

More | Personal Experiences
[origineel]

ORIGIN, VISION & MISSION :

On December 29, 2015, Abbot Alberic Bruschke osco handed over the keys of the abbey complex (7500 m2 built area) Sion from the Cistercians of the strict observance  to the ten initiators of the New Sion Foundation. These initiators – both Protestants and Catholics – had found each other in the ideal of continuing in the footsteps of the monks. They wanted to preserve the cultural and religious heritage of the monks who lived in this place for 125 years. In a Vision & Mission document this was expressed as follows:

The former Abbey Sion (now Monastery New Sion) is and will remain a place where people can come closer to God, to themselves, to their fellow man and to nature through prayer and contemplation, silence and simplicity, manual labour and hospitality, based on a Christian contemplative spirituality.

To concretize the Vision & Mission, the following six core values were formulated:

The first important core value of the Nieuw Sion foundation is the prayer life . The familiar prayer of the hours of the monks takes shape in a contemporary way in the community of the prayers of the hours.

The second important core value is hospitality . This place invites to share with others, with people who want to participate in the (re) destination of this important religious and cultural heritage. Guests and those involved in the community of Klooster Nieuw Sion are welcome to pray and work.

The third important core value is simplicity and durability . In praying and working together, each with his own skills and responsibility, we work from respect for nature and the environment and we strive for sustainable action and development.

The fourth important core value is encounter . Nieuw Sion offers space for in-depth encounter – with yourself, with others, with nature, with God – which is facilitated by male and female hosts and members of the community of the hours of New Sion.

THREE COMMUNITIES:

Over the past five years, three interconnected communities have gradually emerged around and in the monastery. The oldest of those three is the working community . Anyone who wants to volunteer within the Vision & Mission of Nieuw Sion is welcome to participate, regardless of religion or belief. The members of the working community work to a considerable extent on the odd-jobs-day on Friday. On that day the interior, garden and DIY team are active, each of which has its own coordinators. Other volunteers are active in various working groups such as gatekeepers, monastery guides, hospitality, fundraising, program, etc. Members of the working community record their agreements about the work to be performed in a volunteer agreement and adhere to a set of rules for the working community. Members of the working community who wish to dedicate themselves to the Hours of Prayer – which is held four times a day – can join the prayer community – Members of this community participate in the working community for one part of the day a week, participate in or lead a Prayer of the Hours at least once a week and attend a formation evening once a month. It is only possible to live at Monastery Sion as a member of the residential community. All members of the residential community are automatically also members of the working and prayer community. They have their own precepts which state that they attend a prayer of the hours once a day and do voluntary work one day a week, particularly in providing hospitality.

STRUCTURE OF THE THREE COMMUNITIES:

At present, the working community has around 120 members. It is a very multi-coloured company. From a spiritual point of view from atheist, humanist, new spiritual to orthodox Reformed, Evangelical and Roman Catholic. In terms of age, there are quite a few retirees, but also people in their 30s, 40s, people in a reintegration process and asylum seekers. The intensity of involvement is diverse. An enthusiastic core group does voluntary work several days a week, many come once a week, still others once every two weeks or a month. The members of the community mostly come from the region, but a small number live 100 or more kilometres from the monastery. The prayer community has not yet been formalized but consists of about 20 people, including 10 members of the residential community. In terms of ages, it ranges from 34 to 78 years. Many people have ties with a church, especially with the 3 Reformed Churches (Freed Reformed and Christian Reformed and Dutch Reformed), with the PKN or with the RC Church. Others are fringe church members or secular, but they are ‘monastic’ as they say themselves. The residential community consists of three families, together with eight children and ten adults, aged 34 to 53 years. The majority is made up of people in their thirties. All have a Protestant Christian background; most but not all are still associated with their church. There are remarkably few Catholic aspirants for the residential community. Probably because secularisation hit even harder in Catholic circles and also because Catholics can choose from many more monastic communities to join. We hope to include Catholic members in the selection of new candidates for the prayer and residential community.

HOW DID NEW SION BECOME FINANCIALLY FEASIBLE ?:

A subsidized feasibility study that preceded the takeover of the abbey showed that cost-effective exploitation would only be possible if the emphasis was on the deployment of voluntary forces. With a view to this, Nieuw Sion is still mainly a volunteer organization (120 volunteers and 5 part-time paid employees together about 1.5 fte). Nieuw Sion assumes that volunteers also work professionally and that someone is only paid if he / she has knowledge that has a clear added value. Finally, a mix of ongoing rental income from the residential community, income from guest house and hall rental and private retreat programs is a way to generate sufficient income. In addition, the one-off help from funds and private sponsors is important to enable investments in redevelopment and sustainability. The latter is necessary because about 2 million more will have to be invested in the monastery.

TWO CAPTAINS ON A SHIP?

Many times over the past five years we have been faced with the choice to rent or sell parts of our monastery complex. In most cases we have said NO to requests in that direction. In any case, there was a clear no when people wanted to do their own thing with us. That was certainly the case if those ideals were not very much in line with our Vision & Mission. But we have difficult experiences even when the ideals do match. In the collaboration with a similar foundation, it has nevertheless turned out that a parallel structure with two boards, two teams and own ‘members’ quickly leads to us-them stories and sometimes even to a ship that is controlled by several captains. For that reason, we prefer to keep the management of the whole in the hands of one foundation and one – albeit two-headed – management.

About the author

Peter Dullaert

Tidal Community Director.