The Breath that Sustains Us

On Sunday, May 15, 2022 over 300 Unitarian Universalists (UUs) across Canada attended a virtual national worship service like no other. There were no speakers, and it did not follow the traditional order of service.  Instead, rich, evocative music, images, and affirmations guided participants through a 15-minute, multi-sensory breathing meditation, which ran three times, for a total of 45 minutes. Participants were free to leave or join breakout rooms at any time.

The response to the service has been overwhelmingly positive, demonstrating that there is an appetite for more experimentation and variety in how we worship. As one attendee said: “It seemed like the perfect way to bring peace to our troubled spirits, to soothe whatever we were suffering from after a year (or more) of challenge and anxiety.”

Others pointed out that the meditative format was radically inclusive. The typical order of  service reflects our Protestant roots. The structure of this service centred a different source of our faith: direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life.

Executive Director Vyda Ng acknowledges that the different format of the service was unexpected, and challenging for some. “It can be difficult to allow ourselves to experience something different, and to meditate for 15 minutes or more. Meditation requires courage and curiosity,” she says. “It requires us to lean into discomfort, and to reflect on our thoughts and our reactions in the moment.”

If you are curious, you can watch the recording on the Canadian Unitarian Council’s (CUC’s) YouTube channel). Ask yourself the following questions: Where did I place my attention? What did I observe in my thoughts, feelings, and reactions? Did anything shift for me during the meditation? 

We also invite you to consider what is blossoming in your life right now. This is the question we posed in the virtual breakout rooms, where attendees gathered during (and after) the service to  connect with others.


Call and Response, the Canadian Unitarian Council’s new blog, is a forum for sharing ideas, tools, and resources with people and organizations who want to create a more loving, just, and equitable world. 

We’d love to hear from you. Tell us about a time when you radically changed the format or structure of an event. How did people respond? What did you learn from the experiment?

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