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Two years into a global pandemic, the toll on human life and livelihood is undeniable, and the toll on mental, emotional and spiritual health is no less profound. Enormous shifts in the way we work, gather and worship have left many people reeling.

Julie Stevens, once a nurse practitioner and now director of contemplative practices at Gloria Dei Lutheran in Rochester, Minn., said that this challenge to human health and well-being is also an invitation to the church. “We see so much anxiety and angst,” she said. “As a spiritual community, how can we be a resource?”

For a number of ELCA communities and leaders, contemplative practices offer just such a resource for people who are weary, overwhelmed or simply searching for something more—a different way to encounter God in a time when so much is suddenly different.

Perhaps you’ve heard these common phrases associated with mindfulness: “Let go and let God” or “Don’t just do something—sit there!” But how do we let go or sit still when we are surrounded by constant pressure to achieve, accumulate and act?

That’s where contemplative practices come in—concrete, specific activities and exercises designed to facilitate “a direct experience of God’s presence, of divine love,” said Ian Hill, pastor of St. Mark Lutheran Church in Hamilton, N.J., where he has taught a weekly mindfulness class since 2016.

The new year is often a time when we open ourselves to new experiences. Perhaps now is a time to consider contemplative practices for yourself, your congregation or your community. In a time of deep change and uncertainty, such practices can bring body, mind and spirit together to engage in what Stevens calls “a heart encounter with God.”

To get you started, several Lutherans with experience leading and participating in contemplative ministry share advice and tips below, as well as reflections on what these practices have meant in their lives.

Read the rest of this piece at: Living Lutheran