For 15 years, men of St. Timothy’s have gathered on Tuesday mornings at a still-dark hour to sit in the church for silent prayer. Afterwards, they have a brief sharing together.
This year, beginning Tuesday, September 27, women of St. Timothy’s are invited to do the same – gather in the church, then go separately from the men to a room for reflection. I had a little “practice” prayer time this past Tuesday morning. I went because I was concerned some women might show up since I forgot to put the Women’s Prayer Group start date in the brochure announcing it.
I have to admit that over the summer, I had occasional misgivings about the early start time of this prayer group. I relish group meditation, but the idea of leaving my house every Tuesday by 6 or earlier, in time to get settled and start the coffee for the reflection time, well . . . I wondered if I’d regret the commitment.
What I experienced this past Tuesday was a marvel. Even when I was at home getting ready and pulling out of my garage into the dark, silent neighborhood, I felt a subtle crispness in the air, as if the grace of the prayer time was already rising. I felt drawn toward it.
When I got to St. Timothy’s and entered the back of the church, I immediately felt moved. Such silence. Such darkness. Such fullness. I spontaneously slowed down – in my movements and inside - and breathed in deeply as I looked for a seat. Only a very dim light from the Gathering Space and the flickering glow of the sanctuary lamp revealed the shadowy outlines of the pews. Men were scattered throughout and others continued to arrive, moving quietly and respectfully into the stillness. There was something endearing and powerful about all these brothers surrendering themselves to just sit with God, a humbling offering.
As I settled into a pew, the silence and darkness encompassed me more. The silence did not feel empty, but alive and soothing to my tattered edges. The darkness did not seem void, but telling. It opened a deeper layer of alertness, a new seeing - as if parting a veil.
Calm is a vibrant feeling, and I began to feel a pleasant, hard to describe sensation of peace throughout my body, mind, and emotions. I felt a strong desire to be still so as to feel it more, to bask in the ocean of it. The tide of stillness was strengthened by the energy of each one sitting there, and all of us together as one body, one vessel for grace, one strong invitation. The tide of stillness was swelled by the sanctity of this space. St. Timothy’s church is filled with the energy of years of prayer and worship and praise; celebrations of the birth and the resurrection; deep mourning and longing and laughter; love and communion and welcome: it is simply bathed with the energy of God.
God is always with us in the center of everything, in our breathing and in our heartbeat and even in the depth of our troubles and worst worries. But in the noise and swirling clouds of doing and trying to get done, in the hurry and common commotion, it’s so hard to actually feel God.
If you vigorously shake a jar filled with water and a little sand and then set it down, the swirling sand begins to settle and the water eventually becomes clear. I felt like a little jar of swirling thoughts, feelings, and wants settling into clarity, and that clarity was strengthened by the grace of this place and my brothers. And in the clarity is God – ever-present, vibrant, quiet, indescribable. We basked in God’s presence.
I don’t know if I’ll feel this same sensation of basking in God every Tuesday morning, but I am grateful for this past Tuesday. The sensation was strong, sweet, and paradoxically calming and energizing at the same time. The time flew by and soon those stunning rays of dawn sunlight were slanting through the colorful stained glass behind the cross. When the bell rang to signal the end of prayer time, I was disappointed. I wanted to keep basking. I can’t wait until Tuesday, September 27. All are welcome! I hope you’ll consider checking it out.