Punk Monk / Book Review

Recently I wrote a post about how when I read non fiction books I mark all these pages and then have no idea what to do (you can read it here).

One of the things I’ve decided I could do is write about the books as individual posts to organise my thoughts and feelings on the book. So here goes.

Punk Monk by Andy Freeman & Pete Greig. The blurb on the back of the book gives a far better explanation than I ever could so here it is:

“Punk Monk charts Andy Freeman’s remarkable journey from praying with punks and goths in a derelict pub, to planting contemporary, monastic communities committed to the ‘breathing in’ of prayer and then ‘breathing out’ of mission and compassion”

First things first, I absolutely loved this book. It truly transformed my thinking and inspired me to live a radically different life than the one I had pictured for myself. As I read the book I put in sticky tabs at quotes or ideas I particularly loved. These sticky notes are going to be the formation of the thoughts presented below.

“What if revolution is more about evolution –  a gradual process of incremental change shaped by circumstance and event”

When we talk about a revolution our automatic assumption is that we need to completely transform everything in one giant sweep, that everything needs to be turned on it’s head. But what if we did think of it as a gradual process. Lay the groundwork, build the foundations, allowed the needs of our surroundings to impact what we did?

“Nearly all major monastic movements began with a violent reaction to compromised religion. Monasticism at its best has always been a cry for change – in our hearts, in a compromised church and in society at large”

Statistics suggest that the church in the UK is reaching around 3% of the population. If that doesn’t mean that something is seriously wrong with how we are doing things then I don’t know what is. As a wise friend of mine has taken to saying “It can’t be fixed by small tweaks, that’s just moving the deck chairs on the titanic”.

“our work with young people shouldn’t be from a distance, but should be in the heart of the youth culture, in the communities where the young people live, in the places where they hang out. We should come and live life with them.”

What good can we really do if we parachute in throw some help at the people in need and then disappear? The average time a youth worker stays in post is 18 months and while there are very valid reasons for this how can that actually leave a lasting impact? What are we really telling the people we build relationships with if we aren’t living where they live and committing to it?

“you can find every group..being described as being “in community”..yet as Groucho Marx expressed it, you might “never belong to a group that would accept someone like me as a member””

This, I think, lies at the heart of what we want to do by moving into the community we want to serve. We are not starting a community, that would be a group, we are joining an already existing community. Running youth groups, community outreach initiatives etc etc is brilliant and so so important, but groups have members and it’s hard to make everyone feel involved and invited.

“And so my prayer life is reduced to a one-way shipping list of wants and needs, demands and invoices, and I fail to truly return God’s welcome. For fear of being known, I take but I do not give – I allow myself to be blessed, but I do not bless Jesus the way Mary did, who simply gave to him her undivided attention.”

This is so relatable and I think something that most of us at times struggle to grasp. It’s too easy to take 2 minutes and list off your needs and then that’s it end of prayer time. Praying is meant to be a conversation yet I talk and then that’s it!

“Mother Teresa believed that her prayer life did not end when she left her room and entered her day. Caring for the poor was as much a prayer as the words she uttered in secret beforehand. It is time to ‘incarnate’ our prayers.”

Imagine if we lived out the thing we saw Jesus doing? Imagine if for every prayer of “let your kingdom come, your will be done” we all went out there and tried to make it happen? That would be huge. I’m not doing enough to live out the prayers I pray, that needs to change.

“hospitality is a sign that a community is alive, that it is not afraid, that it has something valuable to share”

When I see all the hospitable people in my local community it really does give me hope, I can only strive to be as welcoming and inclusive as these people are.


PHEW! That was long. Sorry if you like things to be short and snappy!

Have you read Punk Monk? I haven’t met many people who have and I would love to talk to other people and see what their take aways were so if you’ve read it please get in touch!





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