Every Thursday evening, a small group gathers at Pilgrim United Church of Christ for an hour of serious quiet time.
The goal? To escape the distractions of daily life and tune in to God through meditation.
I m a confirmed meditator, Charlotte Trolz said. I started about 15 years ago and it s made an immeasurable difference in my life.
Ms. Trolz, 77, of Sylvania, meditates twice a day for between 10 and 30 minutes whatever feels right and said it not only helps her spiritually, but physically as well.
I m much calmer, she said.
While meditation is often associated with Eastern religions, especially Hinduism and Buddhism, it was part of the early Christian church, according to Ron Leinweber, who led a recent meditation seminar at Pilgrim UCC.
Christian writers throughout history have described the practice of meditation, including John Cassian in the 4th century, 16th century saints John of the Cross and Francis de Sales, and 20th century Protestant mystic A.W. Tozer.
But over the centuries, Christianity has moved steadily away from meditation as the teachings became more conceptual and rational, Mr. Leinweber said.
Meditation has been opposed by some Christian leaders, including Pope John Paul II, who in his 1984 book, Crossing the Threshold, called Buddhism an atheistic religion and warned Christians not to practice some forms of meditation and asceticism.
One of the leading proponents of Christian meditation is the World Community for Christian Meditation, a group founded in 1991 and headquartered in London. The organization, which led the seminar at Pilgrim UCC, was inspired by the teachings of British monk John Main and is led by the Rev. Laurence Freeman, who carries on Mr. Main s legacy through the WCCM.
The two-day seminar held at Pilgrim is a condensed and intense version of the usual five-day WCCM program, said Mr. Leinweber, 73, a lay Benedictine oblate from Royal Oak, Mich. He was assisted by Winnie Wong, another instructor.
We don t want to overwhelm people and we don t want it to be just an academic study, Mr. Leinweber said.
In leading the group in a time of meditation, Mr. Leinweber asked a seminar participant read several verses from Psalm 27, then turned the lights down low and played soft music a gentle tune featuring flutes and violins on a CD player.
The individuals began concentrating in silence, reciting to themselves a Christian mantra. For beginners, that mantra is usually Maranatha, Aramaic for Come, Lord, Mr. Leinweber said.
The mantra provides centering and serves to quiet the spirit, opening the person to the presence of God, he said.
He slowly turned the music off as the group slipped into 20 minutes of total silence, the only sounds coming from the hum of an air conditioner or the rumble of passing traffic.
The idea of meditation is that God is not just an outside thing to judge and punish and reward, but is there as a constant friend, Mr. Leinweber said.
The meditation group meets from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursdays at Pilgrim United Church of Christ, 1375 Sylvania Ave. Information on the World Community of Christian Meditation is available online at www.wccm.org.