I’ve had the idea for meditative worship for a few years now. I can see, now looking back at some of my pastor’s messages here at Christ United, that in those messages, what I was really doing was working on and through this idea.
In my pastor’s message for August, I wrote about how I had been seeing more and more social media posts about life coaching: “They post positive, life-affirming messages, designed to help whoever may be reading them. They tout to help anyone out with any problem in their personal and/or professional life.”
While I was noticing this trend on social media, there was another one I noticed in a similar vein: posts about meditation. Then (and even now) it seems like every advertisement I see on Instagram is about a new meditation or mindfulness app to try. I see more and more friends post about practicing some form of meditation, or a desire to start.
Back in July for my pastor’s message, I wrote about the church of future and some articles I had read about the current state of the church. In an article by USA Today, the research showed that the next generation, Gen Z (ages 13-25), were “more likely to practice meditation (29%) than participate in religious groups (25%).”
What this tells me is that there is some deep spiritual yearning going on.
Since I am a pastor of a church, there was something conspicuously absent in all of these posts and advertisements about meditation: the church. Friends who posted about meditating were not church goers. Advertisements were from companies not affiliated with a Christian denomination.
Now, I realize this is purely anecdotal, and there probably is a church (or churches) out there that currently offer, or have offered, meditation. But in my corner of the world I have not seen this.
Which is strange, given the history of Christianity.
The Christian Meditation Tradition
Christianity has a rich history of specifically Christian meditation. In seminary I learned about the desert fathers and mothers (as they are called) who went out to the Egyptian desert in the 300s to be alone with God. While there they prayed often. One prayer that had it’s origins in the 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. They were always meditating.
My own journey with meditation
Before I attended seminary I had never meditated. After my first year of seminary, however, I started seeing a spiritual director. To begin each session, he would lead me through different meditations. Very soon I started using those same meditations to begin my prayer time at night. I still continue to use those meditations to this day.
These meditations have helped me immensely in my own life, both in my spiritual life, but also simply in life in general. I often, but not always, receive solutions to problems. Or I simply receive support to continue on in my journey.
Meditative Worship at Christ United
For the meditative worship here at Christ United, I will start with one of the meditations that my spiritual director has used. We’ll also go through a story of Jesus where I have people imagine themselves in the story. Slow, meditative music will be interspersed throughout the worship service.
My hunch is that meditative worship is what the church of the future should offer. In July for my pastor’s message I wrote “There is one thing I do know: people need to gather together to seek answers from and be in communion with the divine. That is one thing that I don’t ever see changing.” I further wrote that, “I believe we will always do that here at Christ United.” Meditative worship is something new that delivers on that belief.
I’m thankful to be able to try this idea here. Also a thank-you to the Lutheran synod for giving us a grant to help pay for the physical parts of this service.
I hope you will join us.
- Pastor Alex