Tonight was my first experience with Centering Prayer at the Episcopal Church. For those not familiar with it, just think of Buddhist meditation with a Christian slant. A brief discussion of a Bible text and a portion of a book on centering prayer practice, was followed by a period of contemplation of around 20 minutes. The ‘meditation’ was ended by a recitation of the Lord’s prayer. All total about an hour in length. During the time of contemplation, you are supposed to choose a word that would help you focus or signify your intention (such as God, faith, peace, love, etc). There was a gong to signify that time was up. Mats and cushions to make everyone comfortable. Candles and dim lighting. And I definitely recognized a Tibetan prayer bowl.
This is not your typical church service. In fact, I learned, that a lot of people who engage in CP were not the average Sunday service attenders. It’s a different breed of Christian almost. The type that would mark themselves as ‘spiritual but not religious’. All in all it was a very refreshing way to see Christianity being lived out in the lives of different people. At least in the Episcopal Church I have been sporadically attending, you need not be the faithful never-missing Sunday attendee to be viewed as a ‘quality’ Christian, or member in good standing. In fact one Sunday morning I ran into an elderly lady that attends the early service (8am) and then stays for the group Bible education class afterwards. I hadn’t seen her in a few weeks as I usually attend the later service at 10am. She said hello and told me that she was glad that I was still around. I remarked that I hadn’t missed a Sunday yet since I began attending there. Coming from a JW background, maybe I was, out of habit, trying to show her that I was doing all the right things since, after all, regular meeting attendance is of utmost importance. Her reply to me blew my mind. She said that ‘there is no need to be fanatical about it’. I LOVE THAT!
I don’t know if I will make it a practice to attend the centering prayer group regularly (Monday evening is hard for me with my work schedule). But my interest is peaked. The whole experience was relaxing. The meditation was much easier than I thought it be. The gong sound to indicate the end actually startled me as I had no idea that 20 minutes in silence would pass by so quickly. The word I choose for contemplation was ‘peace’ and to focus my mind for 20 minutes on this needed quality was good for me. And to do this as a way to be closer to Christ was awesome. Maybe if JWs practiced this, the Kingdom Hall would be way more chill.