St. Luke's United Methodist Church
Thursday, July 02, 2020
A Missional Church

The Retreat (Contemplative Worship)

A time of silence, contemplation, prayer and Holy Communion that seeks to employ the use of symbols and Sacrament to draw us closer to God.     
Wednesdays at 6:45 P.M.

As one enters the sanctuary at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church on Wednesday evening, the setting is peaceful. A Gregorian chant is playing softly. Candles have been lit and they brighten the front section around the altar. A handful of worshipers are already in their seats, waiting quietly or praying. Rev. Irvin Boudreaux greets others, St. Luke’s members and visitors, at the front door as they arrive, moving away from the bustle of Canal Boulevard and busy affairs in the city to enjoy a serene, brief time of spiritual renewal.
At St. Luke’s Wednesday Contemplative Worship service, called “The Retreat”, a quiet time begins at 6:30 p.m. for those arriving early. The service begins at 6:45 p.m. and lasts about a half hour. The mid-week gathering features Scriptural readings, times of silence for prayer, a brief sermon by Rev. Boudreaux that expounds on the Scripture readings, the taking of Holy Communion and more time for quiet reflection. At several points the service is enhanced by the playing of Taizé or Gregorian chant music that has long been a feature of certain Christian worship experiences around the world.
Scriptural readings offering a lesson that can be applied to today’s spiritual journey form the basis of Rev. Boudreaux’s reflections. The Oct. 6 Retreat service, for example, offered reflections from the story of the tax collector Zacchaeus, a man of small stature much reviled by citizens in his community who, fiercely curious upon the arrival of Jesus, climbed a sycamore tree to gain a glimpse of the new religious figure as he passed. Despite grumbling by observers, Jesus used Zacchaeus as an agent of change—within the tax collector himself and among those lives he touched. This classic story from the Gospel of Luke served as a point of emphasis for those attending the mid-week service, touching on Jesus’ power of redemption in the life of any individual willing to reach out and respond.
The Retreat service began Sept. 15 and,. Rev. Boudreaux notes he is “very pleased” that there has been a consistent response and said he believes the new service is helping to achieve the Methodist Conference goal of providing new “doors” for people to join our community of faith. “We have seen people at the Wednesday service that have not been to any of our other services,” he said. “The people who have come have seen it has a positive experience.”
St Luke’s member Rob Rowell, who concedes he was initially skeptical of plans for the mid-week service, said he has “thoroughly enjoyed the ability to kind of contemplate, to meditate” on Wednesday evenings. The service will be an important outreach tool for the church family, he said. “We need to go outside of St. Luke’s, let people know,” he said. “Anyone would enjoy it.” Another member, Fran Jeansonne, said the Wednesday service has a “reverent” and not casual feel. She too said it holds potential for drawing a different set of worshippers. “Some people are not real comfortable going to an 11 o’clock service,” she said.
Don Purling, who previously attended a Catholic church, said the mid-week service has certain features recalling a Catholic style of service and that he finds comforting. “I like the atmosphere of the candles, the music. It helps me to center. It helps me to focus. It brings me closer to God,” he said. The spiritual time is helpful “especially after a busy day at work. It’s nice to let that stuff go.”