#AwkwardTuesday and the Chanting Eleven
Just when I think our Community Group has reached its absolute limit in awkwardness (remember the kazoo-ing?), we manage to outdo ourselves. Last night might have been the most awkward of all.
We started off, as we always do, with a shared meal. The group in charge of dinner brought food inspired by seeds. Our song last week spoke of the seeds of spring and resurrection and so we carried that theme into our meal. Mustard seed potatoes, a rice and veggie dish, sesame seed chicken, poppyseed cake, you get the idea.
Brent also brought actual sunflower seeds in tiny planters that he sprouted for each of us to take home and grow on our own.
I blessed the meal (sort of!) with this short poem by Wendell Berry. Last week our conversation centered on the darkness that seems to be swirling ’round for a lot of folks. We talked about what it means to be resurrection people in the face of such darkness and how to hold on to the belief that all is not lost (as the song proclaimed). The poem, despite its seeming darkness, is ultimately hopeful.
February 2, 1968
In the dark of the moon, in flying snow, in the dead of winter,
war spreading, families dying, the world in danger,
I walk the rocky hillside, sowing clover.
Whitney recently returned from the Trinity Conference in New Mexico, put on by Fr. Richard Rohr and The Center for Action & Contemplation, and she shared several of the things that she experienced while there, including… chanting. That’s what we’d be doing, it turned out. Chanting.
We all sat around the living room talking at length about it before we began. We talked through our initial reactions upon hearing what we’d be doing. Responses ranged from “What, like monks?” to “I don’t know if I feel spiritual enough to chant” to “My stepdad would think this is totally of the devil.”
Turns out, though, that our anticipation of chanting was much more difficult than the chanting itself. Isn’t that always the case? That the anticipation of a thing is much more intense and fearsome than the thing itself? Anyway, the spiritual practice of chanting is actually very much rooted in Christian tradition, with documentation of it dated as far back as the year 112 AD. Roman emperor Pliny noted that Christians “met regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verses alternately among themselves in honor of Christ as if to a god.”
Whitney and the meditation/prayer group selected this track (below) by Darlene Franz, who was actually at the conference that Whitney attended earlier this month where she lead chants in both the large group and smaller breakout groups throughout the weekend.
There are four lines in the recording:
- Abide in my love
- Jesus, remember me…this day in paradise
- Where I am, there may you also be
- Many rooms
We each picked one to repeat quietly throughout the duration of the seven minute track and after much fidgeting and, well, awkwardness, we settled in and gave it a go.
Apparently there are much easier chants to start with — one liners as opposed to four liners — and I can’t say that we sounded great but the overall response of the group afterwards was universally positive. We all enjoyed it to varying degrees and most of us expressed an interest in doing it again.
Personally I surprised myself by really enjoying it. I had been dreading it, knowing it was coming. It seemed like it would require a monumental amount of energy for this introvert but I closed my eyes, sat back, took a few deep breaths and then didn’t open my eyes again until it was over. It was much more musical than I’d imagined. The music and the voices of the ten people circled around me was… well, lovely. And like I said, really not so awkward after all.