Thursday, November 25, 2010

Simple, Not Easy...

Here is another brief excerpt from the project:

Jane Vennard says that “Centering Prayer is simple but not easy.” She aptly notes that due to our cultural attachment to productivity, we may get discouraged with Centering Prayer and feel that nothing has happened, and we may in the beginning feel more anxious after the first few sessions of Centering Prayer. Centering Prayer is like growing corn. When one seed is planted, it takes time before it germinates. It must rest in the silence of the earth for some time and the farmer must wait to see the benefits of his/her labor. Just as it takes time to develop an ear of corn, it also takes time to develop an ear of contemplation. According to Michael Casey, “Our contact with God is not immediately profound, but reaches profundity only after many years’ continuance. Therefore, our initial experience must necessarily be superficial, although at the time we could not realize this. The full benefits of revelation are not accessible to a rapid perusal.”

As Advent is soon to begin, I pray that it is a season of slow revelation for us all!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Meditative Preaching

Here is an excerpt from the praxis stage of my senior project. The context of my paper is guide for Methodist ministers in rural congregations to incorporate Centering Prayer into their churches. This is one of the first tactics I encourage fellow ministers to implement in preparing the way for deeper practices of contemplation.

Silence is a phenomenon that is predominately avoided at all costs in our technological culture. The radio and television industries refer to it as “dead air.” I have witnessed a friend of mine who is a radio program producer go into a frantic furry pushing buttons, twisting knobs and sliding controls as he struggled to get the music playing again during a period of “dead air.” Silence in our daily lives seems to make us very uncomfortable, and this psychological response may frustrate us greatly in our spiritual formation. While I was on a silent retreat in 2006, in Sewanee, Tennessee, I noticed that the priest who led our retreat intentionally interjected long pauses of silence throughout our daily Eucharistic services. Ironically, I was shocked on a silent retreat to witness silence in the “order” of corporate worship. I remember how profound the pauses were and how the timing accentuated my experience of the Sacrament. Thus, I agree with Kent Groff’s encouragement for pastors, priests, and worship leaders to intentionally weave extended pauses of silence into their worship services. This is one, non-offensive way to slowly increase an empirical awareness of the value of silence.

Henri Nouwen also describes the value of silence in preaching in his book The Way of the Heart. In this little book, he instructs preachers to consciously integrate meditative preaching as one way to “practice the ministry of silence.” He states that such preaching moves the attention of a listener away from the pulpit to the listener’s heart revealing an interior abode of silence. For example, if a preacher will read the phrase “The Lord is My Shepherd” and refrain from expounding upon it, and read it again after a slight pause and then allow for a longer pause, something transformational can take place. Nouwen argues that the Word will “lead a listener to the silent pastures where [he/she] can dwell in the loving presence of [God] in whose Name the preacher speaks.” Most rural congregations who use the lectionary do not sing a Psalm response, rather they responsively read it; a lector can easily add a minute of silence after a line the congregation echoes before reading her or his next line.

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