Centering Prayer at Westminster

[Note:  This was printed in our newsletter a few years ago.  Centering prayer continues to be a meaningful experience for our Westminster community]

What goes on during that centering prayer group Sundays at noon?

Why would anyone leave coffee hour and go down there?

And, if it's supposed to be silent prayer, why do I hear talking and laughter?

Let me describe this time for you.  The first few people gather in the chapel and chat a bit, and then more people come, and we have to get out the folding chairs.  We are happy to see so many people wanting to pray together.  Then we look over a hymn and each person picks out a word that stands out today, something that calls to the heart. 

Katie strikes that little chime, and we try to pray without saying anything, without thinking anything, just being quiet before God for a little while.  This is impossible!  You can hear the clock ticking, and the sounds of people cleaning up in the kitchen upstairs, and the person next to you is breathing too loud, and then you start thinking about the sermon or the grocery list -- oops. 

This is where the word from the hymn comes in:  You just repeat that word to yourself, as a reminder that this is a time to open yourself to God, not a time to worry about any other sound or thought.  Finally, Katie rings the chime again.  In 5 long minutes, maybe a few moments were truly offered to God.  But it is enough.  Somehow, you feel that you have been steadied, re-oriented, lined up like a compass needle in the direction God wants for you. 

After the chime, there is a precious silence.  We know we have shared something special.  But we are also bursting to share about this experience.  So we talk, and share, and celebrate; sometimes we are solemn, and sometimes we are filled with joy and laughter.  Then Katie jokes that we should tell everyone that we really sat in silence for the whole 20 minutes, honest! and we go out into our lives. 

Maybe you are being called to join in, too.