Mardi Gras Lunch and Talent Show February 19th!
Time: After 10:30 worship – around noon.
Place: Nolt auditorium
What should I bring? Please bring a yummy dessert to share – the main dishes will be provided.
Ash Wednesday Services
Imposition of ashes and Holy Communion — noon in the St. Peter Chapel and 7 p.m. in the Nave.
Please enter the church parking lot via Queen Street and exit via the Christian Street Alley.
Christian Mindfulness by Tom Santosusso
Contemplative practices offer a resource for people who are weary, overwhelmed or simply searching for something more—a different way to encounter God in a time when so much is suddenly different. Perhaps you’ve heard these common phrases associated with mindfulness: “Let go and let God” or “Don’t just do something—sit there!”
But how do we let go or sit still when we are surrounded by constant pressure to achieve, accumulate and act? That’s where contemplative practices come in—concrete, specific activities and exercises designed to facilitate “a direct experience of God’s presence, of divine love.”
Contemplative practices are both ancient and new—and authentically Lutheran! Practices such as silent meditation, centering prayer, walking a labyrinth or yoga may feel unfamiliar to some Lutherans, but contemplative practices have a long history within Christianity. The Gospels describe Jesus going off alone to pray and be in God’s presence. Some early Christians, the so-called desert fathers and mothers, withdrew to isolated areas to dedicate their lives to various contemplative practices. Martin Luther reportedly spent four hours per day in prayer. Meditation at its root is about letting go of the ego. It can be likened to the apostle Paul’s reflection “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20) and to John the Baptist’s declaration that “[Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Luther further insisted that in baptismal life we die and rise with Christ every day, an idea that resonates with the concept of meditation.
If at first you don’t succeed … you’re probably doing it right.
People are more contemplative than they realize. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean contemplative practice is easy—for newcomers or long-time practitioners. One long-time practitioner has said, “Every morning I sit down to fail.” But think of it this way: it’s not how it feels, but how it becomes.
Contemplation is not necessarily a feel-good practice in the moment. Sometimes you sit there and you try to be open, and then you go back to the “squirrel brain.” It can be frustrating, thinking, I didn’t do it right or I wasn’t calmer. It can feel like a waste of time, not getting anywhere. But if it is your intent to spend time with God—to be attuned to God in that moment—that is contemplative prayer. It’s not just navel-gazing: Contemplation as compassion, justice and outreach. One common misconception of contemplative practices is that they are exclusively self-focused or inward-directed.
Actually, the opposite is true: These practices are not about us. They are for the good of the world. Meditation teaches the brain new patterns of relating to others. Long after the meditation ends, the fruits happen in work, family and worship. Like the infinity sign, it’s about going out into the world and coming back to be refilled, and then to pour back out into the world again. One outgrowth of this idea is contemplative activism. Worship and prayer—including contemplative practices—have long been part of faith-based justice work. Howard Thurman inspired Martin Luther King Jr. to spend two weeks in contemplation during the civil rights movement. Contemplation and active love for the neighbor go hand in hand: “If I am listening to the God within me, I am listening to the God in you.” Contemplative practice opens us up, loosens the edges of church so that the walls become permeable. We remember that we’re all in this together.
Learn more about contemplative practices:
- The Ministry Lab
- Looking Within
- Christian Mindfulness Community
- Center for Action and Contemplation
- Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation
- The Cloud of Unknowing: Anonymous (Amazon)
- The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind by Cynthia Bourgeault (Shambhala, 2008)
- Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church by Barbara A. Holmes (Fortress Press, 2017)
- The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts From the Works of Father Thomas Keating by Thomas Keating (Continuum, 2009)
- Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life by Henri Nouwen (HarperOne, 2015)
- Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World From a Place of Prayer by Richard Rohr (Paulist Press, 2014)
Lenten Faith Formation Opportunities
We have a number of Lenten faith formation and learning opportunities being offered this year. Lenten paths and devotionals are available for pickup in the Narthex and the Nolt Auditorium.
Lenten Paths: We will be offering Lenten paths for kids, teens, and adults this year! We also have calendars from Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake.
Lent Trivia Cards: We be providing our Sunday School families with a set of trivia cards packed with questions about Lent!
Lenten Devotional Books: We have ordered copies of Water and Spirit from Augsburg Fortress. This devotional begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes on Holy Saturday.
Mindfulness Group: We have a small group of folks who are ready to explore with others the spiritual practices grouped under the heading of “mindfulness” – prayer, meditation, contemplation. Tom Santosusso would serve as the convener of this group; let him know of your possible interest here: email@example.com
Neighborhood Cleanup: Our neighborhood could use some TLC! Would anyone like to make a Lenten commitment to walking a block or two after church, or during the week, praying for our neighborhood and neighbors and just picking up trash and recyclables “that the wind has blown in?”
A Time for Discovery: Primarily for those new to Grace or interested in refreshing some of the Christian Basics, I will be teaching this class at the usual Adult Education and Formation hour at 9:00 a.m. Sunday mornings in the Nolt Auditorium.
Come Follow Me: This would be a midweek/evening course led by Pastor David Bushnell (retired from Hamilton Park UCC church) in 10 sessions, beginning in Lent and continuing through the Easter Season. This course helps us frame our identity as the Body of Christ in the midst of our call to care for the earth amid the many challenges to the environment and sustainable life: pollution of earth air and water, changing climate, the status quo of political and economic systems, the need for energy, the creation of stuff. Would bringing the resources of hope and faith to the challenges of living on and caring for the earth today interest you? Let Pastor V know!
Lenten Walk, Talk and Pray! : Take a Lenten Journey with us on Sunday. Phil Supeck will lead a devotional and give us questions to ponder and discuss while we walk with a partner. Invite a friend who needs some conversation and fresh air. Ages teen through 100 years of age recommended.2 pm on Sundays (beginning Feb. 26 through March 26)Meet at the Buchanan Park PavilionRSVP with Phil, Kath or church office.
Volunteers Needed to Write Devotions and Prayers For Lent
Dear members and friends of Grace, Thank you to everyone who has submitted a devotion for Lent! We now have enough devotions for Lent. However, we would love for volunteers to write short (around 200 words) devotionals or prayers during the rest of the church year (except July).
Anyone can write for this section! It would be a great activity for families and friends. If you don’t want to write an original piece you can submit something written by someone else. If you do this please provide the information needed to cite the text. If you are interested in writing please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. — Peace, Angie Rabbe
Our Grace Family
John and Arlene Volk would like to thank everyone for all of the cards and messages of support and prayers of Grace members they were blessed with this past month.