After the Book Festival (and Looking Forward to a New Contemplative Prayer Gathering)

AJC Decatur Book Festival

AJC Decatur Book Festival

Happy Labor Day, everyone. This post is chock-full of Atlanta (really, Decatur) news. So if you live outside of Atlanta, please bear with me. Then again, what I have to say about Contemplative Prayer Groups might be of interest to you no matter where you live; even if you are a long way away from Decatur, GA, perhaps this will be an inspiration for you to start your own contemplative practice gathering.

I’m still a little buzzed from the wonderful time I had Saturday at the AJC Decatur Book Festival, one of the largest such festivals in the country and pretty much the biggest literary event here in Georgia (I suppose all my friends who love Dragon Con might take issue with that statement, but Dragon Con is a multi-media festival so it’s not really fair — to either event — to compare).

I spoke Saturday at 12:30 PM in the Old Decatur Courthouse. I was a bit nervous with such an early slot (and right in the middle of lunchtime, no less). Well, so much for my worries: we had a standing room only crowd in the lovely upstairs chamber of the Courthouse, and while I saw plenty of familiar faces, it was such a joy to share my love for contemplative spirituality with a lot of folks whom I’ve never before met. Thanks to everyone who came out, who purchased books, and who simply love contemplation (or spiritual writing). I’m also filled with gratitude for all the folks who put on the Book Festival, especially the Fox Tale Book Shoppe (who handled my book signing) and MailChimp (the sponsors of the Old Courthouse Stage).

I read four or five excerpts from Answering the Contemplative Call and then enjoyed a brief Q&A dialogue with the audience. One question that came up: “Where can I find support to explore contemplative spirituality?” Which brings me to the second part of this post. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll remember that earlier this summer I wrote about the possibility of starting a contemplative practice group in Decatur. That group, I’m excited to announce, is set to kick off in two weeks, on Sunday, September 15, 2013. Here’s what we’re doing:

My good friend the Reverend Phil Foster and I, in partnership with the First Christian Church of Decatur, GA, will be hosting a Contemplative Prayer Gathering on the third Sunday of each month, beginning in September 2013. We will gather at First Christian Church, 601 W. Ponce de Leon Avenue in Decatur, at 5 PM for a time of shared lectio divina (meditative reading of scripture), silent time for contemplative prayer, and Vespers — a traditional prayer service for evening. Our purpose will be to create a silent and reflective space for prayer, meditation, and contemplative resting in the divine presence. While our practice is rooted in the Christian tradition, scripture, and prayer practice, we are intentional about this being a place of welcoming and friendship for people of all faiths, as well as all flavors of Christianity, as well for those who identify as questioners, seekers, or spiritually independent. There is no charge for attending.

First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Decatur

First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Decatur

We have made an initial commitment for six months, so we will be at FCCD the third Sunday of each month now through February at least. We are offering the space, and hope that people will come. In six months’ time we should be able to discern if there is sufficient interest in this kind of ecumenical contemplative gathering to continue, as well as to see if there is interest for a more frequent gathering, or for classes, worshops, retreats, or other kinds of events centered in the contemplative tradition. We are open to where the Holy Spirit may lead us. We hope that you will join us and help us to discern what kind of contemplative presence we can offer to Decatur and the Atlanta community at large.

So please join us on September 15! Please tell your friends. If you have any questions, please leave a comment here at this blog, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Here are a few points, based on questions people have already asked me:

  • This is not a centering prayer group. Centering Prayer is a contemplative practice specifically taught by Contemplative Outreach, and is one of a number of methods of prayer that dispose a person for contemplation. We are not teaching or promoting any one type of prayer, so all kinds of contemplative practice — such as centering prayer, Christian meditation, or the Jesus Prayer/prayer of the heart — are welcome here. If you are specifically looking to join a centering prayer group, please visit Contemplative Outreach Atlanta for a list of active groups.
  • Currently we are not equipped to provide childcare. Sorry! If enough persons are interested in the group with a need for childcare, we can discuss this.
  • This group is not structured to teach Christian mysticism or contemplative prayer, in an academic sense. It is designed to be practice-oriented rather than classroom-oriented. Of course, I offer many classes and programs on Christian mysticism and contemplative spirituality, and may offer programming like that at FCCD if the interest is there. I also offer programming at other churches and venues in Atlanta and beyond. But this particular gathering is geared toward learning-by-doing.

I hope this is helpful information, and of course, I hope I’ll see you at FCCD on September 15!

Preliminary Practices for Christian Contemplatives
Pentecost and Ecstasy
Emptiness and Non-Attachment
Catholic Meditation and Contemplative Prayer: What's the Difference?
About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.