One of the things I love about the congregation I serve is their intentionality about celebrating and honoring the liturgical seasons, especially Lent. Often Lent seems to be a time of just giving up chocolate, or caffeine, or soda. But, here, Lent is truly a season of prayer, repentance, and reflection. Though in the first centuries of the Christian Church it was a time for new believers to fast and prepare themselves to be received into the community of faith on Easter, others within the already established Christian communities began adopting Lenten practices of fasting and prayer in solidarity with the new believers.
Every year, a small group of women plan and present a series of Lenten reflections. Beginning the second Thursday after Ash Wednesday, and every Thursday following, they offer Lenten Quiet Nights–services of silence, briefly spoken words, singing, and prayer. The services are brief, followed by simple meals of soup and bread. Everything they do is intentional and beautiful. The second weekend after Ash Wednesday they put on a Lenten Retreat. Over the past few years they have hosted Philip Newell as he shared his beautiful obsession with celtic spirituality, and Mark Yaconelli (author of Growing Souls and co-founder and co-director of Triptykos) who offered much of what he has learned from his studies of youth spirituality (culminating his son Joseph’s creation of the “Slow Club”).
This year as I sat in our chapel on Thursday night, being a participant in a place where so often I am a leader, and I gazed upon the candles flickering all around, listening to the scripture and reflection be shared, I could not help but feel the Spirit of God descend and fill that space, calling each one of us to just STOP. Stop, breathe, be still, and know that I am God. Be still.
Over the past 20 years of working with youth I have asked them from time to time to just stop and be still. At times they are not able to do it–they are too wired for constant movement, always doing something. But, at other times they have told me after how the stillness and silence overwhelmed them to tears. It is something special to be intentional about silence and stillness in a world that so loud and so busy, especially in community.
When I think about Lent–and it’s sister season, Advent–I can’t help but be drawn to the practices of silence and stillness, but often find myself longing for a community to share in these practices. I am blessed to have found a community that not only cherishes silence, but actively seeks it.
Thank you, Lord, for your call on this community, and the gift of your life-giving presence that is shared through so many. Thank you for you call to stillness. Thank you for your invitation to knowing you deeper. Thank you. Amen.
© 2010 Eric O. Ledermann