Saturday, October 4, 2008

Kirtan Chanting

Awhile back a friend invited me to come to her yoga studio for some Kirtan chanting. I am not an expert on Kirtan -- just knew there would be some chanting, drumming, dancing (optional) and good vibes. It sounded fun, so I went. It was cool. I felt more peaceful when I left than when I arrived.

However, because I am a church planter who can rarely ever turn it off, I could not help studying the crowd and the event and trying to discern what was going on. This is the definition of Kirtan that was on the flyer for the event:

"Kirtan is a group participatory experience of sacred chanting that will open your heart and build deeper connection to yourself, others and the Divine. This practice cultivates energy (Shakti) and joyful devotion (Bhakti). Kirtan is considered, in India, to be one of the surest paths to enlightenment. It's fun and anyone can quickly learn to chant."

While there, I heard the leader give an invitation something like this: "when we chant, the spirit in us connects with The Divine Spirit, and in the experience we are connected with one another too. And we all receive positive energy in this shared experience." Fair enough. The experience proved true.

The experience also reinforced another truth for me: people in our world are longing for ways to connect with the divine. We know that the values of our culture are shallow and materialistic. We know that we are spiritual creatures and there is more to life. We want to connect with our own spirits, with God/Spirit, and with other people.

In terms of the music and chanting of Kirtan, it has power and movement. The words, Sanskrit I think, meant little to me. But in the music, there was a pattern of calm, then heightened energy, and then a return to calm. The pattern was much like that in a good Gospel song, or a chant from the Christian monks in Taize France -- even much like a good Christian rock band -- engaging the crowd. Music has the power to draw us beyond ourselves -- and connect us to one another.

In the end, there was nothing particularly remarkable in Kirtan, in itself. It is a means, like so many other means -- an inviation, if you will -- for us to settle our spirits, and connect with the Divine Spirit who created every one of us. Kirtan is a practice. Prayer is also a practice. So is meditation. Kirtan could be called an experience of communal worship.

I do not mean to diminish the power of Kirtan. It is not my purpose to offend. I am glad that persons who are spiritually searching, can draw closer to the Divine using this means.

I suppose, as a church planter, I just have to ask the question: why aren't more of our churches creating spaces for persons to settle into their centers, and connect spirit to Spirit? How did we lose that revival spirit that spread across this country when it was young, and birthed so many churches? And why are 'church people' mostly unable to be moved by the Holy Spirit?

As I ponder the planting of The Village -- as a movement -- I am inspired to do better -- to create safe spaces where folks can meet the Divine in authentic ways. I am discouraged at the state of the church today. I believe we can do better. This is my vision for The Village. This is my prayer.