What’s that one smell that always brings a memory flooding back to your mind? For me, the smell of warm velour triggers the smell of my grandmother’s 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera on a warm day. My sister and I spent many Saturday afternoons riding to minor league baseball games in that car, often accompanied by a Snickers ice cream bar. Though my grandmother passed nearly 20 years ago, this memory lives on in me, so much so that we served Snickers ice cream bars at my ordination reception!
Why am I writing about this very specific memory? Well, because our senses play a huge role in how we worship. Worship is an inherently incarnational experience. We show up in our physical bodies to participate in a physical gathering (when it’s safe to do so), yet in many ways, worship can also sometimes feel simply observational. Our bodies are there, but are we connecting with the Spirit through our senses? Through different modes of learning? Using different materials?
One way to foster a connection with the Spirit through our senses is by incorporating prayer stations into the worship experience.
Prayer stations are five-minute prayer activities designed to help the worshiper engage differently. Prayer stations invite you to touch, taste, feel, smell, and reflect using your whole self. Instead of sitting in a pew, you might be walking around a labyrinth. Instead of kneeling for a prayer, you might be filling a jar with sand as you pray for people suffering the effects of climate change. Instead of hearing the scripture read, you might be making a collage of what you hear the scripture inviting you to do. Each station draws you nearer to God in new and embodied ways.
Here you can find a folder full of prayer stations that correspond to the five practices along the Diocese of Washington’s Path of Discipleship: pray, learn, serve, give, share.
The beauty of prayer stations is their versatility. They can be configured for an intergenerational worship or you can create a small kit to give homebound members so they can set up their own station at home. However you choose to use prayer stations, we pray they might draw you nearer to God.
The Rev. Emily Snowden
Project Coordinator for the School for Christian Faith and Leadership & Tending Our Soil Thriving Congregations Initiative