January 6, 2010

A Methodist Embraces Monastic Prayer

Rev. Joshua W. Hale is the campus minister for the Wesley Foundation at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. He also serves as Associate Pastor at Wesley United Methodist Church and on The Virtual Abbey's leadership team. Josh's blog is The Expatriate Minister and you can follow him on Twitter.

I didn’t know it was going to be like this.

I was raised with my feet planted on two different paths—ecclesiastically, denominationally, practically, theologically.

My father is a lifelong United Methodist who loves the mainline tradition that values intellectual exercise, attention to practice, and a (somewhat) ecumenical sense of worship. My mother was an active Southern Baptist who brought to my early religious development a love for Jesus, the best sense of witness, and moral excellence.

As a family, we spent some time on the Baptist trail, but settled on a United Methodist congregation in our hometown big enough to embrace both parents’ values. I loved sitting in the worship service (I wouldn’t go to children’s church), singing hymns while my father lined them out in the hymnal.

Fast-forward to seminary where I discovered that although I’d attended the as-Anglican-as-you-can-get St. Paul’s UMC in Houston while at college, I hadn’t yet been exposed to all of our liturgical traditions, especially daily prayer.

Juan Huertas and I met at a Fund for Theological Education conference at the glorious St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota the summer before we both began seminary. My best friend ever since, Juan was also my first “professor” of the Daily Office as I navigated the many unwieldy prayer books far too early in the morning. This call to a daily life with God has stuck with me...and the prayer books have become easier to manage!

I am not a perfect practitioner, but I have been called to pray the Liturgy of the Hours during seminary, within the Order of Saint Luke, alongside British Methodist and Church of England neighbors, while serving on a college campus, and now online through The Virtual Abbey.

So, I didn’t know it was going to be like this when I witnessed my father’s early-every-morning cup of coffee and devotional reading, or my mother’s insistence on a real and relational prayer life in Christ, or even my home churches’ emphasis on excellence in liturgy and music. I didn’t know these seemingly divergent paths would lead me to the life-giving rhythm of daily prayer.

In his letter to the Thessalonian community St. Paul writes, "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NRSV).

The only reason I encountered this way of life St. Paul describes is because I had people and communities that nurtured a broader imagination and a deeper ground for faith in action. And so, my hope and prayer is this: that your capacity to love God and your neighbor is enlarged by whatever prayer and service is provided by this community of faith known as The Virtual Abbey.

May your days abound with faith, your nights with hope, and your whole life with love. In the name of God—Source of All, Eternal Word, and Holy Spirit—Amen.

1 comment:

Wheelie Catholic said...

Thanks for this post. It's great to know more about the person behind the twitter name, and also about the folks we pray with in community at the virtual Abbey. I so appreciate the opportunity to join in group prayer so frequently and thank you for your loving service.