Band Contemplative Practices in Community
The following are a listing of suggested formats that Bands may use in their regular meetings. The guiding principle is the use of those formats for the individuals in that Band which deepen the experience of God in the Band gathering. The general format is that each meeting will have an opening, content session and closing.
Openings: Often will include the following: verbal prayer to gather the Band, reading from Psalms, contemplative readings by leading contemplative teachers like Father Keating, silent prayer for at least twenty minutes and Communion.
Closings: Verbal prayers of blessing and sending forth.
Content Session: These are examples of forms of contemplative content sessions:
- Lectio divinia model — A passage of scripture is read three times interspersed with Silence and after a concluding Silence, and a chance to journal, individuals share what has come up for them on how the Word is speaking to them in the moment.
- Trust Circle model — One person leads the Band in this model. A phrase or short reading may be offered to take into the Silence. The leader assures silence for some period and the opportunity for sharing of whatever anyone feels led to share that is coming out of their experience of silent prayer to God about whatever is on their hearts. After a sharing and Silence there is opportunity for Spirit led questions from others interspersed with Silence.
- Personal Topic model — Someone brings a topic, an issue that is on their hearts and shares it. There is no limitation on what these may be: a feeling of loss of faith, a grief or sadness, an awareness of how a personality issue such as perfectionism is undermining their spiritual growth. While questions may be asked of the person bringing the topic. There are no responses designed to “solve the problem,” rather members simply hold the space and are present for what is shared. After Silence, others share their experience about the topic.
- General Topic model — Sometimes we are stunned by things happening in the world: a tsunami in Asia, a flood or an earthquake, or some random act of violence in the world. Sometimes we are uplifted by expressions of goodness and kindness in the world. When these topics are shared it is important not to get too heady about them, but to keep the sharing at the level of the emotional impact of such events and how one is pushed away or connected to God because of the way we interpret such events. As always sharings should be interspersed with Silence.
- Instructive model — Normally this model would not be used often, because by its nature it is least likely to provide a contemplative experience, but sometimes it will be helpful to use a video or present material on how a particular contemplative practice is best utilized; e.g. to dig into the nuts and bolts of how best Centering Prayer seems to work. When this model is used it is important to be sure there is Silence and time for people to share their experience of not just the instruction, but the experience of doing the instruction.
- Praise model — The hierarchy of the main ways to connect with God in contemplation is: first, Silence; then stirrings of the heart, movement of the body and probably lastly dialogue. In addition to processes that allow us to share verbally stirrings of the heart, music, chanting, singing and movement all open us to deep direct, non-mental, connections to God. Using this model a Band might chant all or part of its session, or sing, or listen to or move to spiritual music.
- Welcoming Prayer Model — The welcoming prayer is repeated several times interspersed with Silence. After an opportunity to journal each person shares, interspersed with Silence, what issues the Welcoming Prayer touches on that are most up for them. There is no cross talk or fixing; just a sharing of how this prayer is moving each person’s spirit.