Sponsoring Institution: Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology
Youth Theology Program: One Bread, One Cup (OBOC)
Contact: Tammy Becht, Director
Theological Foundations for Christian Community
At One Bread, One Cup the foundation for Christian community is built on our common practices of prayer. We are a liturgical leadership conference for high school youth. We teach them to utilize the natural gifts and skills God has given them in service of others within the context of liturgy. Some sing, some play instruments, some proclaim God’s Word and some offer hospitality. Whatever our role, we are to fulfill it fully, consciously, and actively. This idea of community is to accompany us beyond the context of liturgy inside the walls of our churches. Mass ends with the sending forth where we are encouraged to go out and to “love and to serve the Lord.” We carry out this mission in service to others.
Title of Practice: Praying With One Voice
The primary pedagogical practice that brings unity through our practice of liturgy is actually a small challenge given at the beginning of the conference at our first orientation to prayer. We ask the youth to “pray with one voice”. This sounds simplistic but is actually quite difficult to achieve. Praying with one voice means that I must be aware not only of my own level of engagement with the liturgy but also the level of engagement that is coming from those who surround me.
How and Where Do We Pray With One Voice?
At every gathering in the chapel we are challenged to strive toward the goal of unity in prayer. We have two forms of prayer in which we have the opportunity to perfect our response to the challenge of praying with one voice. Our day consists of four separate occasions for gathered prayer; three through the Liturgy of the Hours and once at Mass. Morning prayer, Vespers, and Compline are each comprised of the psalms which are chanted, led by a cantor. They also include a hymn and spoken response. The Mass consists of numerous opportunities for spoken response, singing, chant, and physical movement. The challenge to pray with one voice encompasses all of these prayerful contexts.
Not only within the context of prayer, the challenge to unify is also present throughout the daily schedule of the conference. We move together as a group. We take our meals in common and pray together before each one. The entire conference is an exercise in unity as community. Whatever the community does is what I will do. I may have individual experiences within the context of the conference, but everyone around me may also be experiencing something unique to their life at the same moment.
What Does It Mean To Pray With One Voice?
At the orientation to the first prayer time of each conference we introduce the concept of praying with one voice. We ask everyone to engage fully in prayer, in the responses, in the music and singing. We ask them to consider that each of us is there to pray but that we pray together in the same time and space. Praying with one voice requires work. It requires me to listen to myself and to listen to those around me. I should not be singing (or speaking) so loudly that I cannot hear those around me. I should not sing or speak so softly that I cannot be heard by those around me. If I sing and speak at the proper level, I will be heard even as I hear others. Cadence and timing is important as well as volume. To pray with one voice is to respond with others, not before them, not after them. I must strive to respond and sing with those around me.
The same idea carries over to my physical posture as well. I should engage my body to sit with anticipation at what is happening around me. Slouching suggests disinterest. Being slow to stand, sit, or kneel may send the message to my neighbor that I am not interested in what is happening around me which could also mean that I am not interested in him. To stay attentive, to stand when it is time to stand reflects my level of engagement with the desire to worship with others. Doing my own thing is not communal. Standing out in a crowd through my actions brings attention to my person and draws it away from the object of our worship. Praying with one voice means that I become one with the community that surrounds me. It means that I allow myself to be joined to the assembly. It means that I decrease and my worship increases because I have joined my praise and thanksgiving and supplication, my needs to the needs of the community.
Praying With One Voice Leads To Living In Harmony
I believe that learning to pray with one voice is effective because by striving to attain one voice in community prayer requires a person to be mindful of others. If I am paying attention to those around me at prayer I am more apt to pay closer attention at other times as well. If I am attentive to the postures and levels of engagement of those around me while I’m at church, I can also pay attention to others’ needs when I am at work, while I am driving my car, while I’m waiting in line or doing anything else in my life. If I am able to pray with one voice I may also be able to live in harmony. If I can live in harmony I may also be able to bring peace to any situation. If I can bring peace to any situation then I will be a blessing to others.