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Michigan Church Creates ‘Monastery Experience’ for Lent


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.

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