“Relax your muscles at the top of your head…. Relax your jaw…. Now relax your….”
As the beginning of the Meditative Worship continues, participants relax the rest of their body. Fully relaxed, they then are invited to imagine that their feet are roots pulling nutrients up, and that their arms and head are branches pulling nutrients down into their bodies.
Participants are invited to sit any way that makes them most comfortable. Some sit on flat pillows on the ground, sitting crossed legged. Others remain in their chairs. Still others color in the coloring books offered.
For the Gospel lesson, participants put themselves into the Gospel story. When Jesus turns water into wine, they are asked, What are you wearing? What is Jesus wearing? What are the sounds at this wedding banquet? What does the wine taste like?
What Has Happened
We began offering this Meditative Worship during the season of Lent in March of 2023, originally for only 4 Wednesdays. While all ages attended, a good portion were young adults. These young adults brought friends, some of whom had never been inside a church.
One participant told me how she had had a direct experience of God during the meditation.
After the 4 Wednesdays ended, people wanted to know if we would offer the service again. We decided to offer the service again, once a month, starting in the fall of 2023.
In the fall, we advertised on Facebook to the greater Lansing area. Three new people who had never been to our church attended the first fall service in September. A month later, those 3 people brought 3 more with them. Another participant commented that the worship space during the meditation truly felt like a sanctuary.
What Brought Me Here
Over the last few years I have noticed more and more Instagram posts about meditation. I often see advertisements for mindfulness apps or for yoga. I see friends post about practicing some form of meditation, or a desire to start.
But something was missing from all of this: the church.
Friends who posted about meditating were not church goers. Advertisements were from companies not affiliated with a Christian denomination.
This puzzled me, because I knew the history of meditation in Christianity. In seminary I learned about the desert fathers and mothers who went out to the Egyptian desert in the 300s to be alone with God. While there they prayed. One prayer that had its origins in this Egyptian desert experience, but was later developed more fully by the 400s, was called the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.” This was repeated over and over, throughout a person’s day, until it became second nature.
My Own Journey with Meditation
Meditation was never a part of my life growing up. Even into adulthood it didn’t have much appeal. Not until seminary and when I started seeing a spiritual director, was I regularly introduced to meditation. To begin each session, my spiritual director would lead me through different meditations. Very soon I started using those same meditations to begin my prayer time at night. I continue to use some of those meditations to this day.
Meditation helps center me. I am put into an open state of mind, able to receive whatever the divine wants to give me.
As a pastor, one of my goals is that the people I serve have a direct experience of God. Meditative Worship is helping me to achieve that goal.