“Underground River” is our weekly prayer gathering at McMinnville Covenant Church. We meet on Tuesdays from 12-12:45 pm. The name of our gathering reflects its more contemplative nature. “Underground River” is a metaphor we use for prayer, acknowledging that our prayers (particularly in the evangelical tradition) often can contain a lot of words but don’t always genuinely reflect what’s going on deeper within. Underground River expresses the desire to connect our deeper desires with God’s Living Water, which flows deep within all of us like a River.
Typically, between 4-8 people gather on any given week. After a welcome and brief catching up, we’ll light a candle as a reminder of Christ’s presence with us. The format varies from week to week. Sometimes the facilitator (usually me) will bring a centering Scripture, we often will begin with a period of silence. Sometimes we’ll pray the Divine Hours. Sometimes we sing. Sometimes we incorporate art or stories. This past week I introduced Examen prayer.
Sometimes the Spirit moves us into intercession, but we try not to begin there. We intentionally try to begin with an awareness of God’s presence, and allow the Spirit to lead us in conversation, with or without words.
The group has been meeting for probably six years or so. Initially, silence felt a bit awkward. As we have practiced more “contemplative” forms of prayer over the years, silence has become more and more rich. Over time, this group has come to welcome and even savor holy silence. The words we do verbalize in prayer become more meaningful when we first acknowledge God’s presence in quiet.
There hasn’t been a week when we conclude our time without feeling more centered and blessed in God’s presence. We often conclude with a blessing of God’s peace. Usually we don’t want to leave, and we linger in God’s presence together.
As facilitator, this gathering doesn’t require much preparation. Usually, I will prayerfully prepare something on Tuesday morning before the meeting, which may be as simple as making copies of a prayer or bringing in a Scripture.
I love it because the only agenda is to be in God’s presence! We truly try to allow the Holy Spirit to guide the flow of the meeting. There is great freedom in this.
Submitted by: Ted Yuen, McMinnville Covenant Church, McMinnville, Oregon