13 of us from 7 congregations (including Leicester Unitarian Fellowship, whom we were pleased to welcome) gathered at Kingswood to learn about prayer and meditation from Rev. Ant Howe (Kingswood) and Rev. Sarah Tinker (Kensington). After some brief opening devotions, Sarah set the ball rolling by asking us to split into pairs and discuss what prayer meant to us. We then fed back to the group, and the variety of answers was fascinating. Then we talked about our personal spiritual practices (if any) which included variations on prayer, meditation and simply appreciating the wider world (for example nature).
The second session was on meditation, and was led by Sarah. She explained that we need to be clear when using the word in a Unitarian service, as it means different things to different people. She then sent us outside to do a brief walking meditation, just saying ‘thank you’. We learned that meditation is all about awareness, of taking a step backwards from being the thinker, to observing yourself. There were also many tips on how to make meditation a meaningful part of a Unitarian service. The session was rounded off with a guided visualisation.
After lunch, Ant led us in a session on prayer. Again in small groups, we were asked to consider what kinds of prayer do (and do not) work for us in a church/chapel setting. The importance of appropriate language, the use of pauses, the need for focus, and the need to be heartfelt were all touched on.
Finally, it was over to us! Ant and Sarah asked us to write a prayer or meditation either in response to a disaster that had happened in the last couple of weeks, or about something wonderful that had happened. The braver among us shared the results with the group. They also asked one of us to produce some closing devotions for the day, which we then did.
All in all, it was an inspirational and interesting day. I think everybody learned a lot, and really appreciated the work that Ant and Sarah had put in.