Monday, February 05, 2007

Be still - part 1

Modern life and even modern Christianity doesn't leave us much room for stillness or silence. We seem to have completely forgotten the story of Elijah from the book of Kings when God was not in the earthquake or the fire of the rushing wind. When all was quiet, Elijah heard God's "still, small voice."

But a few local congregations are embracing the idea of silence and I visited one this weekend. On the first Friday of each month, First Presbyterian Church hosts Taize Prayer. The service format originated in an ecumenical monastery in Taize, France, where the brothers are dedicated to "great simplicity of life."

Walking into the chapel, it was immediately obvious something different was going to happen here. Although it was about half full, the room was quiet. The lights were dim and candles covered the altar area.

Everyone was given an order of service at at 5:30, it began with no fanfare or instructions -- not that it really required any. The heart of the service is meditative singing. Short refrains are sung several times to bring your focus to God. Members of the congregation read scripture passages taken from the Old Testament, a Psalm and a Gospel without leaving their seats.

In the middle, we spent about 10 minutes in total silence. I had to fight the urge to fall asleep, since that's what seems to happen to me every time I stop for more than 5 minutes. I don't think God minded me wanting to crash - it was probably his way of telling me I need to sleep more. It was truly a blessing to just be with all of these other people and in the presence of God.

Intercessory prayer and more singing followed the silence. As it began, the service concluded with no fanfare. No one seemed to want to leave for a moment and when they did, they all looked as if they had found a little bit of peace.

The next service will be held at 5:30 p.m. March 3 at the church, 900 Jordan St., Shreveport.

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