Contemplating Lent – Winnipeg Free Press
For the next four weeks, a quartet of United Church ministers are inviting people to sit quietly online with them for 10 minutes a day.
This series of daily short videos – titled Take Ten – encourages Christians to learn several styles of contemplative prayer during the Christian season of Lent, says Reverend Barb Jardine of Brookdale United Church.
“I want to teach (people) how to deepen your prayer life so that there is more connection between you and God when you pray,” explained Jardine, who has practiced contemplative prayer for more than four decades.
Although Lent – the 40 days before Easter – began on Wednesday March 2, people can still join anytime before Thursday April 14, especially if they need space to deal with the anxieties of world events. , suggests Reverend Loraine MacKenzie Shepherd of Westworth United Church, one of the participants in the online prayer project.
Inspired by stories of Ukrainian Christians in Winnipeg praying daily for peace, Shepherd decided to share this project with people in Winnipeg and beyond on her church’s website (www.westworth.ca).
“It’s a practice of self-compassion so we can find ways to release that pressure valve of stress and anger and all the emotions that are surging right now,” Shepherd says.
Jardine and Shepherd are joined in this prayer project by Reverend Cathie Waldie of Carman and Reverend Cheryl Kinney Matheson of Kenora, Ontario. who shared the six weeks of Lent. Prayers are posted daily Monday through Friday.
As minister of two small, rural churches in western Manitoba — Brookdale United and Forrest United — Jardine is struggling to keep his congregants connected during the pandemic without the benefit of virtual worship. Neither church has invested in equipment to livestream their Sunday worship services, although people can access recorded messages from Jardine.
Last year during Lent, Jardine released a daily 10-minute video teaching different aspects of contemplative prayer, with around 30 people following through the 40 days of Lent. Jardine emailed the daily links to church members, but also posted them on Winnipeg’s Westworth United Church website at Shepherd’s request.
“It was (was) an invitation to pray with me daily on YouTube,” Jardine said of the 2021 videos.
This year’s Lenten series will reflect the style of the contributors, says Shepherd, and will also address current events, providing a space for people to process their fears and anxieties in light of heightened tensions due to the invasion of Ukraine. by Russia on February 24.
“I think compassion is what we really need right now,” says Shepherd, halfway through a two-year program on action and contemplation.
“The compassion of (Jesus) Christ is what drives us to pray for the Ukrainian people but also for the Russians.”
Shepherd was motivated to join Take Ten this year to broaden her congregation’s prayer experience and to offer guidance and insight into different forms of prayer, based on her research showing that congregations engaged in spiritual practice are more likely to thrive.
Contemplative prayers are more familiar in other Christian traditions, such as Catholicism, but the people of the United Church of Canada may be new, she says.
“Our comfort zone is written prayers,” Shepherd says, adding that some of the ministers will lead views in body prayers or walking prayers.
The folks at Meadowood United Church are also producing a daily short video during Lent, with various members of the South Winnipeg congregation reading prayers, accompanied by music and photographs. Partly inspired by pandemic disruptions to in-person worship, video links are emailed daily to all church members and posted to their YouTube channel, says Reverend Caryn Douglas.
“Our imagination expands when we think about what we can do,” she says of this digital Lenten series called Pause Pray Reflect Lent.
However people come to contemplative prayer, the discipline develops an internal place to replenish the spirit and encounter God, says Jardine.
“It’s the discipline of silence,” she says.
“To me, it’s an animated silence.”
Brenda Suderman has been a Saturday Newspaper columnist since 2000, first writing about family entertainment and faith and religion since 2006.
Read the full biography