Monday, May 02, 2005

Some Congregations Use Ancient Approaches To Stir the Fervor - WP

The good news:

But what's happening in some mainline churches today is anything but cool spiritual detachment. In its place is a heavily devotional, even mystical approach to spirituality that often calls on ancient Christian practices.

At St. George's Episcopal Church in Arlington, 30 parishioners have formed an "urban abbey," a kind of monastery without walls. Participants promise to follow a "rule of life" that includes daily prayer and Scripture reading, community service at least once a month and the pursuit of a new form of spiritual development each year. ...
And at Iglesia Santa Maria in Falls Church, the first free-standing Latino church in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, worshipers hold hands and sing Simon and Garfunkel's "Sounds of Silence" -- in Spanish -- before taking Communion. The pastor, the Rev. Jesus Reyes, and most of the congregants are former Roman Catholics who find comfort in the use of incense and other Catholic ritual elements in the service but also like the Protestant aspects, such as an open invitation to the Communion table for anyone who wants to partake.

What makes these churches distinctive from others? The greatest difference is "intentionality," a communal decision to return to traditional Christian spiritual practices or to adopt practices of other religions, said Diana Butler Bass, director of a two-year study of reemergent emotionalism in these and other mainline Protestant churches.

In the 1990s, individuals who felt spiritually bereft complemented their church experience by spending a week in silence at a monastery, taking yoga or meditation classes or looking for the latest place to walk the labyrinth. Now mainline churches are bringing those practices into congregational life, and individual spiritual seekers are realizing they are not alone, said Bass, a senior research fellow at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria and author of last year's book "The Practicing Congregation: Imagining a New Old Church."

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