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The Student News Site of Whitworth University

The Whitworthian

The Student News Site of Whitworth University

The Whitworthian

Prayer Experience

Chapel holds new Eastern Orthodox Christian Vespers

Lent on campus this year began with students making vows, participating in Ash Wednesday, and, for a small group of students, going into the chapel to participate in the Eastern Orthodox Vespers event.

The Vespers are a way of life for Orthodox Christians. The prayers occur at night as a way to anticipate the next day, said the Dean of the School of Global Commerce and Management Tim Wilkinson, who is Eastern Orthodox.

“Vespers is a quiet prayer, and it calms you down,” Wilkinson said. “The idea is to listen to the words and pray the words. There are no instruments, and so people participate by singing. Sometimes they simply listen and pray. It is really different from a more contemporary feel. Almost all of the words in the Vespers service come from the Bible. The service is theologically rich.”

Packets containing the Vespers are provided so students can each follow along.

“It’s kind of like classical music, you might not get it the first time, but it grows on you,” Wilkinson said. “It’s not as accessible as contemporary worship services. It is more like symphony music; you maybe have to put a little effort into it before you like it.”

One of the characteristics of Vespers is the focus on a connection between the physical and the spiritual.

“When we pray we stand,” Wilkinson said. “There is a physical connection between the physical reality and the spiritual reality. You can’t pray if you’re slouched in a chair. You can’t sing if you’re sitting down. Our posture makes it better to pray.”

In the Vespers service, incense is used to connect the physical to the spiritual.

“The Bible says: ‘Let my prayer arise in Thy sight as incense. So our use of incense symbolizes our prayers,” said junior Louisa Wilkinson, who is Eastern Orthodox. “Also, it is another way we use our senses while worshipping. Not only do we see the incense rising around the candle light, but we also smell it.”

The Vespers services were brought on campus to introduce students to Orthodox Christianity, said senior Alina Reese, who is also Eastern Orthodox.

“I jokingly say its for the hipsters out there,” Reese said. “It’s different than a Hosanna service you’ll attend; it’s very traditional.”

This year is the first the Vespers have been on campus, Tim Wilkinson said. The services are also intended to add to the Lent experience on campus.

Eastern Lent and western Lent occur at different times of year. The Vespers are timed on campus to coincide with western lent even though eastern Lent is several weeks away, Tim Wilkinson said.

Senior Sarah Beth Gumm attended the service last Wednesday. She said she went because the service sounded interesting and thought it would be fun, but she admitted she felt confused.

“I did not feel I could actually participate because I was not raised in that tradition,” Gumm said. “Things I thought would be recited were sung.”

Gumm likened the confusion to a historical example, when Catholic services in the past were in Latin, and many people did not understand the language.

“You could still experience a worshipful state without fully understanding what was happening,” Gumm said.

She said she encourages people to attend if they are curious or want to experience a different type of church service.

“When a person comes to Vespers the first time, it seems random and confusing,” Tim  Wilkinson said. “The more you come, the more you see there’s reason for it, that it’s spiritual, that there’s logic to it.”

Contact Madison Garner at [email protected]

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    TaylorFeb 20, 2014 at 11:35 pm

    As an Orthodox Whitworth Alumnus, this is thrilling to hear about. Is there an OCF on campus now?

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