“…Services for … [Alt-Worship / Emergent] gatherings can be quite bizarre for a traditionalist—filled with such things such as walking through labyrinths, sitting in couches in the round, having informal and participatory conversations with the preacher, or with having many things go on at the same time during the service…”
Paul writes – This an old post re~posted. I do so because of my continued belief that we need different practices of engaging together with Scripture. We’ve relied overly on preaching (where the congregation becomes an “audience”) and individualized “bible reading”. I also want to continue encouraging good practice of gospel / culture engagement and communal discernment (learning to recognise God and God’s activity.
“A significant experience for me over the last 12-months has been my regular participation is a small group – my “three”. It’s actually four persons (we remained as a “three” for the whole course), and flows out of an hour long contemplative experience (imaginative prayer with Scripture, lectio divina etc – That sort of prayerful practice), followed by 30 minutes of journaling – of sitting with the content, feelings, images, sounds, colours, and experiences of our prayer. We then gathered together as a “three” and prayerfully listened to each other & God present with us, as we:
1. Share what happened for me during the contemplative prayer? Where was God in that experience? Who was God for me? And, how was I for God? The Bible is engaged with formationally and not primarily informationally.
2. We then journal again. The person sharing reflects on their experience of “telling” – how was the experience for them? What new insights did they gain as they told of their experience? The other members of the “three” journal and notice the effect on them of listening – they are paying particular attention to their feelings and what they experienced as they listened - “how was it for them as they listened?”
3. We then talk to the group about this additional experience. The person who shared talks about their experience of sharing, the others talk about what they experienced (including the insights they gained, what they felt (e.g. excitement, sadness, confusion etc) as they listened. We listen for the “more” – the places where we discern the presence of God, life, and passion/energy.
4. This is repeated three more times – each person sharing, the other’s listening, and then dialoging. Time wise it’s limited to an hour.
It is an excellent practice for growing, deepening ones engagement with God, and learning (about ones self, others, Scripture, God etc) in a “corporate” setting. Parker Palmer talks of his taking, “an inner journey in community”, and that’s exactly what happens – “three’s” is about taking “an inner journey in community.”