“Allow yourself to simply be one with the service,” read one of the suggestions in the program for the Good Friday Taizé Service at Light of Life Church. But there’s nothing like a nagging cough to remove a person from being “at one” with anything aspiring to meditative silence. So I was indebted to the kind woman in front of me who, with perfect sweetness and not a trace of irritation, gave me first a cup of water and then a throat lozenge.
Just under 20 of us gathered in the cool blue room, rows of chairs radiating out in a quarter circle from the corner with the platform and the pulpit. The quasi-abstract “angel art” paintings hung on the wall behind us; stands of indoor greenery and a banner reading “Love Light Life” provided up-front decor.
The text for the evening’s meditations came from the March issue of Science of Mind: A Guide for Spiritual Living — an article on “The Seven Last Words of Jesus,” by Mark Anthony Lord. From the article: “It’s recorded in the Bible that while ‘dying’ on the cross, Jesus said ‘seven last words’” that “offer a brilliant blueprint for personal transformation.” Four congregants took turns reading at the pulpit.
“Forgiveness: ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ Forgiveness sets us free so that we may ascend, baggage-free, into a higher, lighter, and more fulfilling way of being....”
“One: ‘Woman, behold your son; behold your mother.’ We can only awaken our spiritual power and evolution when we release ourselves from the roles of biological family, husband, wife.... This statement invites us to ‘behold’ all people as our family....”
“Truth: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Denying feelings of being forsaken will create conflicting energy, which separates you from the possibility of feeling God in the midst of your transformation....”
“Surrender: ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ To be used by God, with no attachment to the form that it takes — this is the ultimate freedom....”
Some readings gave way immediately to others. Some were followed by silent reflection. Several were followed by songs, simple and repetitive in the Taizé fashion. “The heart of the world beats in my own/ The light of world shines through me.... I am the heart of the world.”
Pastor Irma Forward solicited prayers from the congregation. After each, she led everyone in singing, “Your prayer is my prayer, too.” People prayed for abundance, for world peace, for the safety and happiness of children. “I’d just like to say a prayer for the upcoming presidential election — that everyone does this in their highest consciousness. And whoever wins, that it brings happiness and prosperity and joy for our country.” For cheaper gas — that one got a sympathetic laugh. Last, an old-timer from the back prayed for the church’s choir, “that it make a joyous sound for all!”
Forward invited us “to be in the silence and to be in touch with the very deepest level of your soul and know that prayer is answered. And it is answered according to the highest and the best good for all concerned, the highest good....”
Congregants then stepped forward to a table set up in front, which bore an aluminum roasting tray filled with pebbly sand. They took slender white candles, lighted them from a larger candle, and placed them in the sand, announcing which of the aforementioned attributes most connected with them. “I’ll start off,” said Forward. “The word for me is ‘Surrender.’ Total surrender to spirit.” Others followed as the cantor sang, “You are a blessing to the world.”
“Yes, yes, yes,” affirmed Forward at song’s end. “Let’s just kind of revel in that awareness right now...just be still in the knowledge that we are, each one of us individually, a blessing to the world. And that, ultimately, connects us to the whole.”
“You should come on a Sunday,” said one woman as we left the service. “Our music minister is Daniel Hendrick — he used to sing at Lincoln Center. And you need to hear Irma preach; you need to hear her get us going.”
What happens when we die?
“We feel that the soul is released from the body,” said Forward, “because the body, as our founder Ernest Holmes says, is no longer a useful vehicle with which the soul is able to manifest and express itself. So the soul moves on to some of those other mansions Jesus talks about — ‘In my Father’s house, there are many mansions....’ We are not tied to a ‘heaven and hell’ state; we believe that heaven and hell exist right now, depending on the choices that you make. After this life, we just move on to a greater expression; we don’t know what it’s like because we’re not there.”
Light of Life Church
Denomination: United Centers for Spiritual Living Teaching Science of Mind and Spirit
Address: 12540 Oaks North Drive, Rancho Bernardo, 858-485-8119
Founded locally: 1996
Senior pastor: Irma Forward
Congregation size: 75–100
Staff size: 2
Sunday school enrollment: about 8
Annual budget: n/a
Weekly giving: n/a
Singles program: no
Dress: semicasual to semiformal
Diversity: mostly Caucasian
Sunday worship: 10:30 a.m.
Length of reviewed service: 1 hour, 10 minutes