July 6, 2023

Get to Know Centering Prayer

Centering Prayer is a method of silent prayer that allows us to experience God’s presence within.

At St. John’s, we have a Centering Prayer group that meets weekly to study scripture, discuss writings by contemplative authors, and commune with God. This practice doesn’t replace other prayer methods, but rather it offers an experiential dimension to one’s prayer life.

St. John’s parishioner Nancy Bechard is a big proponent of this practice. “This form of receptive prayer helps us open our hearts to the presence and action of the living God within all of us,” says Nancy. “There you discover that you and God are not separate but flow together in love.”

Nancy started participating in our parish’s Centering Prayer group in 2006 and eventually became one of the group’s facilitators in 2015. She now shares this responsibility with Joe McCann. Both enjoy welcoming new participants to the group and introducing the practice of Centering Prayer to those who have never experienced it before. There are certain guidelines for this practice, so Nancy says she always provides plenty of instruction to newcomers – helping them choose their sacred word and providing guidance on feeling comfortable with sitting in silence. Ultimately, participants can begin letting go of their thoughts and enjoying the contemplative nature of Centering Prayer.

That’s what drew Darla Gale Marsters to Nancy’s group. “With the hustle and bustle of life, I put finding time or making it a priority to ‘be still and know that I am God’ on the back burner.”

Darla took a Centering Prayer workshop offered by The Front Porch in the spring of 2023, and eventually realized the weekly Centering Prayer Group was just what she needed. She’s also met some new friends. “The group participants with all different experiences, the conversations we have, the open dialog allowing folks to share their personal connections to meditations and Bible passages – this strengthens my faith more and more each week. This little community has helped me open my heart and mind in new ways.”

Many Centering Prayer participants cite the group’s camaraderie as one of their primary reasons for involvement. St. John’s weekly Centering Prayer group was initially held in person, but the class moved online when the pandemic hit. Fortunately, the Zoom format actually increased the group’s weekly audience, allowing participation from other cities, states, and even other countries when individuals are traveling. Our Centering Prayer group is also perfect for those who just want to enjoy the comfort of their own home while engaging with others in their community of faith.

Says Darla, “They share online resources, encourage and support one another, and provide a warm and welcoming space to learn about the practice of meditation and contemplative prayer.” Readings are sent on Sunday afternoons, but Nancy and Joe make sure it’s never the same thing.

“I like to think that the group is learning as well as experiencing. I like the discipline of reading materials by different contemplative masters and even mystics to see what I can bring to the group,” said Nancy. “I also enjoy honoring the liturgical seasons or days like Advent, Lent, Pentecost, and Epiphany so I pull together appropriate readings for these times.”

Despite the fact that class preparation can be time-consuming, Nancy says she’s grateful for the opportunity to lead this group. She’s reminded about that every week when class begins. “The best part is interacting on Monday evening with beautiful people,” says Nancy. “This is a gift that St. John’s and the Lord have given me. I think of it as a little ministry.”

The ministry is growing! Thanks to the success of the weekly Centering Prayer group, St. John’s and The Front Porch recently added a second contemplative gathering to the church calendar. And if meeting in person is your preference, this twice-monthly Contemplative Lunch is being held on campus. Everyone gathers everyone around the table for Centering Prayer and after lunch, there’s extra time for sharing and informal discussion.

We hope you will join us at one or both of these regular gatherings. Click on the calendar items below for details, and then on the “event series” to see upcoming dates.

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