On January 24th and 25th, 2015, our Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, visited San Marcos Lutheran Church to film a segment for the video which serves as her report to the Synods during their Synod Assemblies. (You can watch the video right below the picture gallery)
The following newsletter article announced Bishop Eaton’s visit.
A Congregation Enters the Silence”
We are pleased to announce that The Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, Presiding Bishop of the ELCA will be coming to San Marcos Lutheran the weekend of January 24-25. An amazing series of events led to this visit. In early November, after spending my time in Centering prayer, I felt prompted to write about my experience. I sent this article to Bishop Eaton and The Lutheran Magazine. (See “A Congregation Enters the Silence” below.) The next day, I received a call from Bishop Eaton. To make a long story short, she liked the article and believes that our experience with Centering Prayer may be the direction she wants to emphasize for the entire ELCA.
On January 24 Bishop Eaton wishes to experience Centering Prayer with us, then stay for dialog and some interviews. We will be filmed during this time and the footage will be part of her report to all the synods at each synod assembly.
On Sunday, January 25, Bishop Eaton will preside during Holy Communion at the 8:30 and 11:00 a.m. services. She will also lead an informal forum in Luther Hall at 9:45 a.m. Pastor Mark Knutson, former pastor of San Marcos Lutheran will be our guest preacher at the 8:30, 9:45 and 11:00 a.m. services. A filming crew also plans to take some footage on Sunday morning for possible use in the annual Church Wide video report to all synods. This promises to be a very special day in the life of our congregation, a fitting part of our Fiftieth Anniversary year of celebration!
You are welcome to join us any Wednesday, 9:00 am for our time of Centering (silent prayer, sitting in loving contemplation of God, consenting to God’s work within us), or to visit any of the other 21 Centering Prayer groups in north San Diego (go to CONSD.org for a complete list). Of course I will be happy to meet individually with anyone to tell you more about this most simple and wonderful method of prayer.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. – Pastor Karla
“A Congregation Enters the Silence”
“As a church we need to engage in basic spiritual practices: prayer, silence, corporate worship, Scripture study, giving, service.” Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton
Last winter, I entered a time of extreme spiritual loneliness. I don’t think I could call it anything else. I reached out to friends, colleagues, mentors, but this loneliness was not abated. When I tried to describe it, it was as if I was looking for someone to understand a deep need within me to be understood.
I am not a lonely person. With three kids, an active congregation and a husband who is also a Lutheran pastor, my life is full and usually joyful. But this was different. This was a pain or discomfort at a deeper level. Since pain is a great motivator, I decided to do something about it.
I began be seeking spiritual direction from a local Franciscan retreat center. There I met with a wonderful Spiritual Director. After we sat in silence for a bit, she asked me what was the desire of my heart. The answer came bubbling forth “I want to be in the presence of God!”. With that confession, I knew what this discomfort had been all along: a prompting and prodding toward a deeper spiritual connection.
My Director encouraged me to make some subtle changes to my prayer life. I have for years had a devotional life, reading the Bible or spiritual literature, journaling, reviewing my long intercessory prayer list and ending with a few minutes of “meditation”. During that time, I would try to sit in silence but my thoughts would still be racing. My director encouraged me to rearrange my devotions, beginning, perhaps, with a brief reading then going immediately to meditation, sitting in the presence of God, which is my heart’s desire. She also began to instruct me on how to quiet my mind and sit in the presence of God in silence.
About that same time, a member of my congregation brought in an article about Contemplative Outreach, which is “a spiritual network of individuals and small faith communities committed to living the contemplative dimension of the Gospel”. I was still in the dark about what this all meant, so I brought this information to my Spiritual Director. She knew much about this organization and encouraged me to find out more. It so happens that we have an active outreach in our area. We contacted the leader and found that they offered a half-day workshop on Centering Prayer, followed by six weeks of once-per-week instruction. We set our half-day workshop for late September.
A group of about 40 met for the workshop, people from my own congregation and those around. We learned the basics of Centering Prayer, its ancient roots in the Christian tradition, how to choose a sacred word, and how to begin to follow this instruction “Be still and know that I am God”. Our instructors and attendees were from many different Christian denominations, Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Methodist, non- denominational, and Lutheran.
The half day workshop gave us the basics, and the six weeks of follow up answered still more questions. For many of us, this answers a deep call within, the need to sit with the Holy One in deeper connection, submission, and union.
At our 2014 Pacifica Synod Assembly, we had the privilege of having Presiding Bishop Eaton as a key speaker. She spoke about her own spiritual practice of sitting in silence for 20 minutes, a miraculous feat for one as busy and active as she. Now all of those who have attended this Centering Prayer workshop have this same commitment, sitting in silence in the presence of God for 20 minutes, once or twice per day. Beginning Nov. 12, we will become a Centering Prayer congregation. We will meet once per week for 20 minutes of silent prayer followed by instruction and a time for group reflection. This group remains open to all, members and non-members alike and will be listed on the Contemplative Outreach North San Diego website (CONSD.org).
In this silence and submission, God is doing great things. Nothing is guaranteed through this prayer except that we will be in the presence of God. Nothing is required except our intent to sit in silence however imperfectly we may do this. But in the silence God is very active, healing us, prompting us, changing us and our community.
I encourage you, my Lutheran brothers and sisters, to find out more. Help is offered and easily available. You can contact me or better yet, the national website ContemplativeOutreach.org or CenteringPrayer.org.
Pastor Karla Halvorson