Sunday, February 15, 2009

Finding faith in the wilderness

From the Demver Post-

For Sunday night services of The Wilderness, the high-vaulted ceiling of St. John's Episcopal Cathedral shimmers with purple and green light effects, like an indoor aurora borealis.

Below, dozens of candles flicker near icons in the dark nave. Incense hangs in the air. Congregants can choose to sit in a pew or on thick cushions at the foot of a simple altar. A stringed Moroccan oud gives even traditional songs of praise an exotic twist, but there is also world music, chant and jazz.

"We're using the cathedral in new ways, making it more inviting and even sensual," said the Rev. Peter Eaton. "It's meant to celebrate and bring alive all the human senses. We think that, in metro Denver, there is nothing else like us."

Like Episcopal parishes across the nation, the attendance is dwindling at the cathedral, and Eaton hopes The Wilderness is the ticket for uninspired Protestants, disaffected Catholics and other spiritual seekers who want a more mystical and meditative feeling than what big-box churches or traditional Protestant services provide.
"We have what everybody else is wanting," said Eaton, St. John's dean and rector. "We have the theological depth and breadth of a 2,000-year-old spiritual tradition. . . . Yet we also have exploration of new language and religious experience."

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