The Rosary at A Protestant Church Camp

Written by Joel on February 16th, 2009

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending FebCamp, a regional high-school youth retreat co-sponsored by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ. I was asked to develop the worship, and I enjoyed the weekend very much.

On Saturday and Sunday afternoon campers attended an interest group of their choice. The various interest groups were developed and lead by counselors or campers (with a counselor’s help). I proposed an interest group: Rosary Prayer. I presented it as a medieval Christian spiritual practice of meditative prayer. I was a bit unsure about how it would be received, but I got 6 campers to sign up for the group, and another interested counselor also attended.

After I announced my interest group, a fellow counselor approached me and showed me his Rosary. It was comforting to know that I was not the only one in my tradition who is drawn to this spiritual practice. If you are not familiar with the D.O.C./U.C.C., they are Protestant denominations closely resembling a mix between Baptists and Presbyterians. My fellow Rosary-praying-Disciple graciously offered his Rosary to aid the interest group.

We began with a simple show-and-tell and I passed around the two Rosaries. As the Rosaries made their way around the circle I gave a brief history of the prayer and spoke about its use today.

Then I showed them the structure of the rosary: the decades, the crucifix, etc.

I wanted to slowly introduce them to the Hail Mary, the heart of the Rosary. Keep in mind that our Christian tradition has practically zero Mariology.

We read Luke 1:28 “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (NIV) showing them that the prayer comes from scripture. We talked about intercessory prayer, and how it’s okay for us to pray for one another. We believe that people are in heaven, including Mary, and they pray all day to God. So its not that we pray to Mary, but rather we ask Mary to pray for us. They accepted this premise quite well.

I then taught them the prayers themselves. We began with the sign of the cross. I said it is a way to mark sacred time which is set apart for speaking with God: “In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” About half of the campers were comfortable with making the sign of the cross.

I skipped the Apostles Creed because I thought Mariology would be difficult enough for Disciples to grasp, I didn’t need to tackle creeds today too (we are “anti-creedal”). I prayed three Hail Marys while the campers listened. I offered them a cheat sheet for the prayers, but no one seemed quite comfortable yet to pray the Hail Mary themselves.

I also taught them the Glory Be. In a Sunday liturgy Disciples often sing this following the tithes and offerings. We sung it together and many campers instantly made the connection. All were comfortable with this prayer.

And of course we prayed the Our Father together, which I explained is another name for The Lord’s Prayer (a more familiar title in our tradition).

I then explained how you are supposed to mediate on a different set of mysteries for each day. It was a Sunday which is the Glorious Mysteries. These included The Assumption and the Coronation, which again may be too much for an induction to the Rosary for Protestants.

We looked at the first Glorious Mystery: The Resurrection. I told the campers to focus and mediate on this as we pray together. I then prayed a decade for them, announcing each scripture following each Hail Mary. They prayed with me the Glory Be and Our Father. I prayed the concluding prayers, and made the sign of the cross to finish.

I asked for their responses. They said “it was cool.”; “it helped me to focus on the resurrection.”; “I could almost see it.”; “it was relaxing.”

There was a small discussion which followed. The counselor asked if many other Disciples pray the Rosary, and I said it was uncommon. A camper asked “why is Jesus’ body on the cross?” And we talked about how you can’t have a resurrection without a cross, and how it is a visual aid to prayer. We also talked about the different focus of each tradition (see post on The Cross and the Crucifix). Another camper shared that she had a Rosary at home and now “know[s] what it is for.”

I was surprised at how well it was received. A survey was taken at the close of camp and this interest group got rated a 3,4,4,4, and a 5 (with two not responding). That is an average of 4 (out of 5)!

Please feel free to share your experiences with the Rosary in a Protestant context, using the comment link below.


3 Comments so far ↓

  1. Agellius says:

    I have had no such experience. The Protestants I know would run screaming from a rosary. : )

  2. keith says:

    In his excellent book, “Prayer for People Who Can’t Sit Still,” Bill Tenny-Brittain has a section on the Rosary for Protestants. One version that I use every now and then is based on the Lord’s Prayer. I’ve led different groups in praying it and people seem to respond well to it.

    Never thought of using it as a camp interest group though! That’s worth a shot.

    • Joel says:

      Thanks Keith, I’ll have to add that one to my reading list. To be honest, I was half surprised that they let me get away with doing the Rosary interest group at all. But, remember we are a very open denomination. There is also the Divine Mercy Chaplet which uses the Rosary Beads, it is considerably more Christ-centered. I might start with that in the future.

      Let me know if you ever try it out in Bridgeport.

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