Michigan Church Creates ‘Monastery Experience’ for Lent

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Inside the stone and brick walls of a state hospital dating back to the late 1800s in Traverse City, Mich., Watershed Christian Reformed Church offered a monastery-like worship experience for Lent.

State Hospital hallways evoke an ancient setting.

In a one-day event entitled “The Monastery Experience,” church and community members were invited to make their way through eight different stations set up throughout the restored building as Benedictine and Gregorian chants played in the background.

Each station offered worshipers the opportunity to try a contemplative act of worship centered around a different theme: Water, Fire, Tree, Vox, Table, Groove, Still, and Lectio.

Some stations offered group activities, such as taking part in a liturgical reading and response (Vox) or choosing a reader and listening to a Bible passage read several times (Lectio).

Others could be done individually: being silent in God’s presence (Still), lighting a candle and saying a prayer (Fire), or taking communion (Table).

“An event like this creates a space for God to work in ways we often don’t have in our formal worship gatherings,” said Bryan Berghoef, pastor of Watershed CRC. “It was peaceful, contemplative, quiet, and self-directed with no designated ending time.”

Berghoef, who wrote about the experience in his blog, said having an old record player and albums that people could touch and handle and consider the grooves and ruts that are present in our lives—and how God might want to change them or redirect them—was a visceral experience that was different than hearing a sermon or singing some songs.

Over a hundred people participated in the event, including families with children and members from outside of the church community.

“The Monastery Experience brought me a great deal of peace. I was able to focus on God, his love, and the blessing he has brought to my life. It was the start of a day of refocusing and letting go,” said attendee Bob Miller.

About the Author

Daina Kraai is the Banner's regional news correspondent for classes Muskegon and Northern Michigan.

See comments (7)


The Catholic Church ought to be impressed with our returning to its' false way of worship!!The Bible states that God is pleased to save His people thru the FOOLISHNESS OF PREACHING, NOT THIS SORT OF STUFF. I. Cor. 1:21 A monastery experience can give no worthwhile peace, but a peace of our own making. We need the Bible, not experiences.

Right on Rose. Those in the CRC who like me left the Church of Rome because of its erroneous faith teachings shaped by inventions of men, have reason to be saddened to see there are some within the CRC who seem to want to "go back to Rome."

"Having an old record player and albums that people could touch and handle and consider the groves and ruts that are present on our lives."

Dude..., Water, Fire, Tree, Vox, Table, Groove, Still, and lectio. - Far-out man! like...I'm totally contemplating it. Like, totally emergent, man!

I'm guessing that those who are quick to criticize may be coming from a somewhat limited perspective, and have perhaps never experienced the powerful ways in which God can work in and through something like this. Sometimes God speaks louder in the silence than in the noise. Even in the Text, he uses many many pictures and images familiar to that time, place and culture to teach timeless truths. He understands the power of picture.

Why shouldn't the church use items of modern culture to speak ancient Biblical truths, in a way that resonates with and communicates to people in meaningful ways today? The truth doesn't change, only the language in which it is spoken.

As a participant it was amazing. So much went into it. I am not going to take the time to retort the comments that clearly don't understand being quiet with God and self.

Our American version of "christianity" has so often missed our vast history as a faith. This was an attempt at helping to move back toward the origins of the faith. Thanks for the article!

Well said, Christy.

Well said, Christy.