Last night I went to Dupage Unitarian Universalist Church because I found out via their Facebook page that they were going to have a Taizé service.
Taizé is usually a gathering that has elements of chanting, candle lighting, responsive reading, shared silence, and some form of a guided meditation.
In fact, the Taizé service I was a part of incorporated all of these elements. Initially I was a bit thrown off by the shared silence, but I was quickly relieved because despite several shared silence’s, they were no more than five minutes a piece. That I can do (and maybe someday I can level up to Quaker status).
The opening chant went as follows; come, come, whoever you are, wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. Ours is no caravan of despair. Come, yet again, come. (SLT #188)
I found beauty in this chant, and I did what I could to figure out which part of “whoever you are” most aligned with, I believe in that instance I was a “wanderer” and maybe perhaps I am that still.
From there a candle was lit in the center of our gathering. Apart from the dusk setting in quickly, the candle was a nice centering item for when my eyes were open.
Given that our shared silence time wasn’t that long, I found myself more engaged as a result. I mentally prepared myself for the night by mentally chanting a Latin phrase I’ve picked up in my own studying and partaking in Taizé; veni sancte spiritus, come holy spirit.
The highlight of my evening partaking in the service was the guided meditation. Our guide led us (with nature sounds in the background) into a deeper place found within. It’s hard to put into words, but I lived there and thrived there, it may have felt like a lifetime but in actuality it was probably twenty minutes altogether. I caught myself crying a little, because it was beautiful to simply be aligned mind+body+spirit, to simply BE.
After the service I made my way to the labyrinth that’s outside the building. The above picture is from that, as the path is illuminated when the sun is no longer out. It was another wave of much needed introspection and silence entwined. I took my time and meditated all the while, mentally chanting veni sancte spiritus.
Unfortunately they’re going to be taking a break from this service until October. Until then I’ll have to partake in Taizé on my own or find others to do it with. It’s not often that I am stirred so deeply, so passionately, but I am willing to engage that deeper part of me that resides in the silence.
Onward and upward,
Morning meditation 6.24.15
The church does a lot of good in the world, but bone thing the church has been doing wrong for some time is sowing seeds of fear; Islamophobia, homophobia, yogaphobia, et al. If you’re able to scare the masses you’ll be able to keep them in check and have them coming back for more out of fear.
But Jesus & the message of the Gospel is not one of fear, rather of love and grace and faith and trust and belief all rolled into one.
I can’t sway others to think differently, only the Holy Spirit can do that (and trust me, she does a damn good job at doing that). But even if you turn a deaf ear to her promptings, consider the following Bible verse;
2 Timothy 1:7 – For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
Where there is fear, there is an absence of God’s love. You can continue operating out of fear or turn to the source of love, the choice is and always has been yours.
– Nathanael –
Now prior to attending a Quaker service on April 12th, my knowledge of them was very limited. I knew they were prone to be progressive and peaceful, prone to social justice both in small and large ways. With that in mind I decided to go to the one nearest me.
As I got to the door I was greeted warmly and was handed a pamphlet about Quakers. I was encouraged to attend the church meeting as I was a bit early for the service. The meeting addressed some financial issues, and after that a call to silence occurred, and what was lively discussion quickly became collective quiet.
Quietness, sheer quietness. It reminded me to a certain extent John Cage’s 4’33 piece, but there was something sacred to it that I was unfamiliar with on a larger scale.
The silence was broken by a handshake, and it became mutual and communal. I met a good portion of those gathered as there were less than 30 people gathered for the meeting. We gathered together outside the sanctuary, they were curious as to my interest and I divulged to them this project, they were glad that I was there and I could feel it too and it was not a shallow feeling in the slightest.
After having engaged those around me, I took some time to be on my own in the form of reading over the titles on their many bookshelves. A lot of the books I have read or have some knowledge of; progressive Christianity books alongside books by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, my kind of library!
Shortly there after the service started, a service that didn’t involve singing but rather praying and meditating and mindfulness all in silence. I was aware of this in advance, and as their website puts it;
“Our Meeting is based on silent worship. It is
possible that no one will speak during the entire
meeting. Anyone is free to speak if he or she feels
moved to it by a leading from the Light within. Each
message will help someone, but our needs differ. If
the message does not “speak to your condition,” try
to reach the spirit behind the words. We maintain
silence for at least a few minutes after vocal
ministry to give time for a message to reach a quiet
I adapted to this style quickly…albeit too quickly, as I found myself listening to nature outside and the grumblings of stomach inside (mine as well as others). My thoughts found its center time and time again, but I admit I grew internally restless because I am unaccustomed to such a service. I mentally made note of the congregation makeup; one kid, two adults close to my age, and a lot of people in their mid 50s and older. More women than men, and all seemed content to be there.
At the 53rd minute of the service, a woman stood up and talked about wildflowers and faith, how sometimes it is visible to ourselves and others, and other times it lays dormant. And yet it is there even if we don’t see it. It was beautiful and simple, and she was the only one who spoke during the service. It started in silence and ended with communal handshakes.
After the service we gathered in the dining hall to partake in banana bread, fruit, and cookies. I met even more people and they too wanted to hear about my church incognito project. I took time to listen as much as I could, and I talked about what being a Quaker means to them.
I realized from the individuals I talked to when I posed the question “what does being a Quaker mean to you?” that a lot of them resonated with the mysterious nature of God, the part of God that cannot fully be grasped. They were okay to live in the unknown-ness and it caused no distress to them. I also gathered that a lot of them were first generation Quakers coming from mostly Catholic church backgrounds.
I talked a great deal to one woman in particular because as we got to talking it became evident that we’re in the same work field! It was interesting to hear about her perspectives and experiences, and what she hoped to imprint upon others and integrate into her practice.
The Quakers I spent time with were wonderful, hospitable people. Not only to I the visitor but to each other, tending to the needs of each other out of love in the context of community. It was good to engage in their core values, but more importantly to see them in action because that is what matters most, faith in action.
Morning mediation 3.30.15
John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
We live in a world that’s beautiful, and before you try to sway me into thinking / believing otherwise, here’s my 2 litas. As we enter into Holy Week, we know where this road winds; we know the crowds who waved palm branches will be the ones clamoring to crucify Jesus.
And once we get to Golgotha, we face Jesus on the cross. We collectively put him there, and God leveled with humanity and “it is finished” was uttered and Jesus died for all of humanity, and 3 days later rose again.
It is finished, the God so many then (and even now) thought was out to get them, to destroy them, gave his only son as a gift to humanity. ALL of humanity, not a select few, not to those who followed him, not to those who sing the church songs / know the bible verses / tithe 10%… ALL. OF. HUMANITY.
We as followers of Christ should live that out, the actions of what Jesus said and did to those around us. We shouldn’t be living with our heads down, distancing ourselves, and taking on a false piety that we have the corner on God. We don’t and never will.
God reveals Godsself to all of mankind and womankind time and time again. I try to conduct my life in light of what Jesus said and did, I live in light of the resurrection.
And the world before then and now and beyond our finite mortal coils will get progressively better. It might not seem that way, but believe it or not, perfect shalom is on the horizon.
All of humanity will be reconnected and reunited with their creator, all will be set in a place of peace. This I believe with every cell in my body.
“It is finished” is also a posture of moving forward, to play an active role in this world around us. Don’t let your existence be one of coasting, we need you!
It is by playing a part we make the world a beautiful place. It is a good world, and will continue to be because “it is finished”. In Jesus’ death and resurrection, we too find ours as well, and by doing so we can live that out to everyone around us.
There will come a day where everyone will utter this universal truth, and what a glorious day that will be!