If you have known me for a while, you know that for almost two years I was involved in a “Christian Mysticism Meetup” group that met every Wednesday night at a church in the Atlanta suburbs. At first we had lots of energy: 20 – 25 people attending each night; but eventually the group withered down to maybe 5 people or so showing up at a time. As I began to have conflicts on the night when the group met (Wednesdays) I let the group go, and that was the end of it. But I told the last few loyal attendees that I hoped to start something similar, and new, when the time was right.
That time may be approaching.
I met yesterday with a couple of friends, one of whom is the pastor of a church in Decatur, Georgia (just outside of Atlanta). We discussed the idea of having a monthly contemplative gathering at the church, on a Sunday evening. This is the format we are considering:
5 PM ~ Gather for shared lectio divina and silence
6 PM ~ Contemplative Evening Prayer (Vespers)
I’m a little nervous about this arrangement; I’m nervous that meeting only once a month will not allow such an offering to gain traction; I’m also not sure that Sundays in the late afternoon is the optimal gathering time; and I wonder if this program needs to be balanced or supplemented with time for discussion, reading of appropriate texts, or even a monthly “What is contemplation?” orientation.
That said, my nervousness is more than overshadowed by my hope — a hope that this kind of offering could really be a blessing to the larger contemplative community in Decatur (in all of metro Atlanta, actually) for several reasons. First, the church where we hope to do this is in a much better location and is a much more welcoming facility than where the previous group met; second, Sunday evenings are much more optimal for me, making this something that I am much more able to commit to; third, the other people involved share my passion both for contemplation and for interspirituality and interfaith dialogue, meaning this could be a truly rich and welcoming resource for people from a variety of backgrounds; and finally, if this does get off the ground and a core community of contemplative practitioners forms around this monthly gathering, we envision this as being a springboard to offering classes, quiet days, and retreats at this location.
In short: we are discerning whether it might be in alignment with the Divine will if it would be a good idea to create a contemplative resource center in Decatur, where people can gather to study and learn the contemplative tradition, pray together, sit in silence together, and form a meaningful community. While this “center” would be a ministry of the host church, it would also be understood that our mission is ecumenical and interspiritual in nature: grounded in the Christian tradition yet open to the wisdom of other contemplative paths.
So: that’s the modest proposal. Now, here’s a question for you, especially if you live near Decatur: “If we build it, will you come?” Actually, I have a number of questions:
- Do you think you could invest one Sunday evening a month to gather with other Christian and interfaith contemplatives, to attend to silence, to read the scripture in the spirit of lectio divine, and to pray together?
- Would this be something you would at least consider making a priority in your life?
- Furthermore, do you have any suggestions for programming, topics for classes, quiet days or retreats, or any other ideas that would make something like this appealing to you?
- What is more appealing to you: a community dedicated to contemplation, or the opportunity to study (and practice) the wisdom of the Christian mystics?
- Any other thoughts that you would like us to consider as we discern whether or not to create a monthly program like the one I’ve described?
- Finally, please let me know if you would like to be notified if/when a monthly event like I’ve described is launched.
Your feedback would be so important to us. Even if you don’t like in the Atlanta area and could not attend this monthly gathering, I’d still like to hear from you, if you have any thoughts about what we could do to make something like this truly be a blessing to those who participate.
Let me reiterate that this is still in the discernment stage, we have not committed to doing this — yet. Hearing from you would be a help in our discernment process. Thank you!