Centering Prayer Group is ancient form of prayer which helps deepen our relationship with God through silence and quieting of the mind. The format is a brief welcoming time, twenty minutes of centering prayer, and a time for reflection on a brief portion of scripture. For more information contact Libby Woodward at libbywoodward@comcast.net or Alice Bejnar at atbejnar@centurylink.net.

 

Taize Prayer Service Below is an excerpt from The Tallahassee Democrat, June 9, 2012

Dozens of candles are lit in the darkened sanctuary. People come in quietly, some sitting near the front, others off by themselves.  A song leader starts a chant. Wait for the Lord, whose day is near. Wait for the Lord: be strong take heart.   They sing it to a simple melody over and over, letting the words sink into their heart. It doesn’t end until everyone in the congregation is ready to stop.  There will be moments of silence, a reading from scripture, a chance to offer prayers for loved ones.

But mostly it will be the singing — beautiful, lyrical songs, some sounding like they hark back to the Gregorian chants of the Middle Ages. When the service is over, no one speaks. People stay as long as they want, then, just as quietly as they came, they leave.

Welcome to a Taize service, a type of contemplative worship developed in a French monastery in 1940. Holy Comforter offers this service on the first Monday of the month.

Churches often modify the basic form of the service — some use instruments or offer communion, others don’t — but the unique aspects of chanting and periods of silence are always included.

Betsy Gray, who leads the service at Holy Comforter, said the emphasis is on letting “Christ pray in us.” To do that, people have to leave their egos at the door. For instance, she sees herself more as a moderator than a leader. “I may set the tempo in the beginning, but if the prayer continues, the tempo may change,” Gray said. “I may realize that there’s stuff going on in my life, and I’m trying to control the chant, so I take a step back.”

That kind of openness appeals to Alice Bejnar, who has been coming to the Holy Comforter services since they started about a year ago.  “It feels very much like the spirit is flowing in the room and once we begin the Taize service it just (goes),” she said. “The Holy Spirit is leading.”  And the songs, she said, are deep.

“With the repetition and the silence in between, it’s just a wonderful time of peace and quiet,” she said.

“We’re all raising our voices in these beautiful, contemplative songs together,” she said. “You can feel the Divine in our midst.”

So far the services have attracted modest numbers, usually about 20 people at each service. But The Rev. Ted Monica from Holy Comforter said, “It’s never about the numbers.”  “We can get between 10 and 30 people,” he said, “But even if three people show up, it’s beautiful.”

The services are also ecumenical and attract people beyond their own church. Monica said the service, by it’s nature, appeals to a wide range of people.  Although the service is Christ-centered, there’s no dogma or creed involved. The common denominator of music reaches into the heart of everyone.

Sheilah Dambitis has been coming to the Holy Comforter Taize service for about four months because she finds it meaningful.  “I feel closer to God,” she said.