To call our second Quiet Day anything but rich would be an understatement.
This time around we had seventeen in attendance and again, all from quite diverse backgrounds. We had an Anglican interested in monasticism travel two hours from near Lithgow to be with us. We had two from a vibrant Assemblies of God church join with us. Our "emerging church pilgrim" enthusiastically returned. A recognised prophetess and some of her team were also with us. We had high-powered business people through to stay-at-home Mums. Likewise, we had folks travel from as far afield as Palm Beach and St Albans near Wiseman’s Ferry, both of which are almost two hours drive from Winbourne, the location of our Quiet Day.
Once again we used some contemporary liturgy to help "frame" the day. We’re finding this helps significantly. Praying ancient words helps as a kind of "ramp" into and out of the times of intentional silence. In a sense, the liturgy book-ends the silence, giving those who are unaccustomed to long periods alone in silence with God, an awareness that there is a beginning and an end to each period.
This is more important than you might imagine, because for many people, silence is intimidating. In fact, it can often conjure up memories of times when silence has been used as a weapon against them, such as in a difficult marriage or when a parent disapproved. But, if those who stuggle with these fears can push through them, they always find that silence directed toward God is a rich and fruitful time.
It was very clear that many were being moved deeply during this first period of silence. Many used Winbourne’s labyrinth.
Once again we were in The Chapel at Winbourne. We gathered around a beautifully restored red gum tree stump used as a kind of altar, while many candles and dimmed lighting intentionally helped to create an "other wordly" atmosphere, giving us a sense that the times of corporate prayer were meant to be a holy time.
Our time of communion was really special too. It began with people filtering back into the room after the monastic bell had rung, only to be somewhat confronted with the crucifixion scene from "The Passion of the Christ" playing on the big screen at one end of The Chapel.
I had felt the Lord ask me to pour the wine into a central "bowl of friendship". I read from Mark’s Gospel and shared how Jesus had given Judas the opportunity to "dip his bread in the bowl". Likewise, I shared how each of the twelve questioned their own hearts and consciences, to test whether they were the one going to betray Jesus; a clear indicator that each one realised they had that capacity within them.
So, after the bread was distributed, and while Phillips, Craig and Dean’s "Pour My Love on You" played, slowly, each one of us came forward and dipped our bread into the bowl of friendship with Christ, after first examining our own hearts looking for the evidence of our own ability to betray Him.
Lunch followed communion and this was a rich time of fellowship and sharing. Most shared how they were coping well with the day, while others said that some of the liturgy brought up old memories of dead religious practices for them, but that there was something different about how we were doing it and about its intent on the day. (By day’s end, I can report that there was not a single person who did not find the use of contemporary liturgy as both beneficial and engaging.)
After lunch, I gave some basic instruction on Lectio Divina (lec-tsee-oh div-een-uh) or sacred reading. This is a method of reading the Scriptures in such a way as it causes a dialogue with the words, where you cannot help but be lifted to meditation and prayer as a result. We also did some group lectio and then used the text (Psalm 85) as a basis for meditation during the afternoon period of intentional silence. This period of silence is a longer one than the morning. Again, this is designed to help those attending to "grow into" the silence and solitude with God.
When this period of intentional silence came to an end with the ringing of the monastic bell, we again gathered in The Chapel for 30 minutes of contemplation guided by music. I used "Praise the Lord" from MorningStar’s "Glory" CD on which Kevin Prosche leads the worship so profoundly and so prophetically. And into this time, God came in manifest presence.
The experience of His presence was very different to what I’ve known before. There was such an awareness of my belly, my spirit, being full to bursting. There were no wild manifestation as in the Toronto Blessing, just a sweet and deeply satisfying encounter with God that remains.
Before we began Vespers (or Evening Prayer), I asked if anyone had anything they wanted to share .. and before we knew it, twenty minutes had passed with people sharing their profound experiences with God from across the day. By far, one of the consistent themes was the use of the labyrinth and how it spoke to each one of their life’s journey with God. It helped them to understand their walk so much better and gave them insights into how to handle the road ahead.
At a personal level, it is deeply satisfying to see so many people willing to "test the water" of the things I’ve been sharing with them for nearly three years. They’ve "come on in" and found that "the water’s fine". My prayer now is that a day like this last Quiet Day might motivate them to each embrace the spiritual practices that I have found immensely valuable to my own life. My deep desire through these days is to provide tools for people to continue developing as true disciples of Christ in a really disciplined and determined way, rather than just stumbling through life from one point of accidental growth to another, as so many of us have done for so many years.
What this second Quiet Day has done is solidfy my conviction that we need to have these days regularly. So, during 2008, they will be held about every 8 weeks, beginning in early March. I’ll post some firm dates shortly and would encourage you to book early, because I think we’re going to have to make between 25-30 as our cut-off each time, so as to maximise the benefit for those attending. However, if it becomes clear that there is a stronger demand for the Quiet Days, then I’ll look seriously at holding them monthly.
To all those who came to our second Quiet Day .. thank you so much. Your willingness to engage with the day, with each other and, most importantly, with God was what made the day as successful as it was. God is a good shepherd who always comes to feed hungy sheep. You came hungry .. and He came to feed us. What more could I ask?