Solitude in Community

In response to the Patheos Progressive Christian question: What spiritual practices are helpful and/or meaningful to you during Lent?

The picture in my mind when I think of spiritual practice is being in a room by myself, going inward, connecting with God, connecting with my soul. Prayer, meditation, spiritual reading. These are solitary activities. Necessary, beautiful solitary activities that provide a powerful counter to our outward-facing world that demands constant engagement and availability.

I know I need that solitude. I know I need to turn off the rush of my mind and listen to only God.

But a car moving along at 65 mph can’t come to a complete stop in an instant and my fast-paced life full of responsibilities, people and activities doesn’t just stop in mid-stride and drop into solitude.

I’m not the only one. I regularly hear the struggle of others to quiet their minds. It seems like the choices are a busy mind or falling fast asleep. In fact, this is why I don’t participate in my church’s regular centering prayer sessions. After falling asleep in a couple, I just couldn’t stand the embarrassment of being the pastor who can’t stay awake for a half hour of meditation.

So while my intention of more solitude during Lent remains a constant goal, I find the practice of being in community through Lent most helpful. The women’s Lent group I am in keeps me connected with others who are struggling for solitude. And knowing that I have to meet with them keeps me honest in my intentions. The larger journey of our church community also helps. Sunday mornings are a constant re-focusing of Lent through prayer, sermons, music and community prayer practices.

While Lent is supposed to be a reflection of Jesus alone in the desert, he wasn’t alone for the majority of his life. He asked the disciples to journey with him, and requested that a few sleepy men watch with him on the night before he died. We need spiritual community to sustain solitude even though the journey of our soul is ours alone to make.

In this season of my life – full-time working pastor & mom of two busy girls – I’m recognizing that community is essential to solitude. Rather than struggling along on my own, I find the courage and strength to feed my soul when I take the journey with others.

  • Betty Starkey

    Thank you Jenny. I’ve been struggling with that. Besides teaching a Bible Study class at two different churches, leading Morning Prayer at one and Noon Lunch at Devotions at another in addition to preaching on Sunday morning, there’s not much time for solitude. But the community at all these venues is wonderful and where I get my energy and inspiration.


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