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Can social media save a monastery?

Can social media save a monastery?

From The New York Times:

The Benedictine monks at the Portsmouth Abbey in Portsmouth, R.I., have a problem. They are aging — five are octogenarians and the youngest will be 50 on his next birthday — and their numbers have fallen to 12, from a peak of about 24 in 1969.

So the monks, who for centuries have shied away from any outside distractions, have instead done what many troubled organizations are doing to find new members — they have taken to the Internet with an elaborate ad campaign featuring videos, a blog and even a Gregorian chant ringtone.

“We’re down in numbers, we’re aging, we feel the pressure to do whatever we can,” said Abbot Caedmon Holmes, who has been in charge of the abbey since 2007. “If this is the way the younger generation are looking things up and are communicating, then this is the place to be.”

That place is far from the solitary lives that some may think monks live. In fact, in this age of all things social media, the monks have embraced what may be the most popular of form of public self-expression: a Facebook page, where they have uploaded photos and video testimonials.


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JC, I would note my observation, both as an Associate of the Holy Cross and through contacts with several Roman Benedictine communities in my vicinity, that distinctions among varieties of Benedictines are less important to the Benedictines themselves than to the various denominations within which the communities function. Consider, for example, the Covenant between the Order of the Holy Cross and the Camaldolese Benedictines; or the fact that Holy Cross monks in formation attend the Benedictine Juniorate School, a handful of Episcopalians among a much larger group of Roman Catholics. Benedictines are willing to see one another as Christians and Benedictines, and not be separated by the communities from which they come.

Marshall Scott

Marshall Scott

James Mackay

Too, there are other Benedictine flavours: Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Russian Orthodox.

Ann Fontaine

Thanks JC for the info but I not sure that it matters to the point of the story which is how to save a monastery regardless of denomination. Good to know- no mention of denomination even on the web site.


Is it too much to ask that a story about Benedictines on Episcopal Cafe will—regardless of what the NYT wrote—clearly indicate (in the body of the story) if it’s referring to RC Benedictines or Episcopal Benedictines? O_o

JC Fisher

[FYI, Portsmouth Abbey is the former]

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