When Accompaniment Becomes a Calling
The vista was spectacular, what I had dreamed it would be. But my mind kept jumping to internal perspectives.
Beauty surrounded me but I had trouble seeing it.
I was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) near Glacier Peak in Washington State. I was in the middle of an eight day hike that I had been planning for months. That day the trail followed a high ridge whose side dropped a thousand feet into a deep green river valley. Beyond the valley were several snow capped peaks. The sky was clear, the alpine flowers brilliant and the view stretched for miles. Still my mind could not stay centered.
As I walked I noticed that my mind kept jumping back to Minnesota, to worries about work. Who could I find to help with the church stewardship drive next fall? What sermon series would be helpful to the congregation? When should we start that new program for the youth? These were not “bad” thoughts, but they certainly distracted me from being centered on my present path. I remember stepping back (inside my head) and noticing how these different trains of thought were jumping around. Who exactly was this observer inside my head noticing the jumps? I prayed, asking God to care for these different concerns, but my prayers seemed only to add to the confusing cacophony of thoughts and ideas rolling around in my head. “Lord Jesus, what am I to do?”
When I returned to Minnesota, I discovered that others in my weekly spirituality group had similar concerns. Together we had begun to explore mediation and specifically centering prayer. This form of Christian contemplation has been taught for centuries and reintroduced to our contemporary world by authors such as Thomas Keating, Richard Rohr and Cynthia Bourgeault. We started incorporating times of silent mediation using the structure of Centering Prayer to guide us. Our shared weekly practice held me accountable for my daily practice of centering prayer. And as my practice strengthened I discovered that one of the fruits was the ability to calm my racing thoughts and be centered on the trail.
A recent post from Alban Weekly highlighted that those who flourish in ministry are intentional about their own well being, including prayer and collegiality.
New spirituality groups are forming this April for rostered ministers in this synod. Some time each week will be devoted to Centering Prayer. If you are seeking a wise way to bring spiritual focus to your life, prayerfully consider participating in one of the six week groups, starting Thursday, April 20. More information about these groups can be found here (PDF) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rev. John Keller
Interim Pastor, Christ the Servant Lutheran Church, Vadnais Heights