Unfortunately, this doesn't appear to be isolated to the D.C. cathedral.
A friend of mine passed along this information from a current St. Vladimir's Seminary professor's (Very Rev. Dr. Harry Papas) online C.V.:
Other Work Experience:
[4th bullet point listed on his St. Vladimir's profile page]
-Developed “Centering Prayer” as contemplative prayer ministry at St. Mary’s in Minneapolis (2003).
If you examine St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Church in Minneapolis' site (worship and prayer section) you'll find familiar things, and then, our newly introduced and much beloved Centering Prayer.
So, it's basically:
-Ushers (no tangents please
-Orthodox stuff-Centering Prayer
Here is the section on centering prayer:
A spiritual discipline that introduces contemplative prayer through resting in God. Training includes literature, tapes, guidance, and communal support St Mary’s has a Centering Prayer group that meets approximately every two weeks on Saturday mornings at 10:15.http://www.stmarysgoc.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=36&Itemid=60
Notice that this contemplative prayer needs to be introduced
, as it is not part of our Orthodox tradition (feel free to correct me if I'm off on this, but just saying a bishop condones it is not much of an argument). Additionally, I'm sure the "training" literature, tapes, and some of the guidance mentioned are not
from Orthodox sources (to be expected, as this is not Orthodox prayer). My guess is that the same DVDs used in the D.C. cathedral's "centering prayer retreat" are used here.
To continue picking on the D.C. Cathedral, here is the page listing Eckhart Tolle and other irresponsible and heterodox reading recommendations, which I failed to find before: http://www.saintsophiawashington.org/bible-study.php?id=997
If you're not familiar with Eckhart Tolle, here are some gems of his:
"Life isn't as serious as the mind makes it out to be."
"Life is the dancer and you are the dance."
"Being spiritual has nothing to do with what you believe and everything to do with your state of consciousness."
"...the past gives you an identity and the future holds the promise of salvation, of fulfillment in whatever form. Both are illusions."
"Man made God in his own image..."
More information on this guardian of Orthodoxy recommended by the D.C. cathedral can be found on the nets, including this NY Times quote: "Tolle is 'not identified with any religion, but uses teachings from Zen Buddhism, Sufism, Hinduism and the Bible.'"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eckhart_Tolle
My apologies for making this post look annoying and link filled, but I am deeply concerned that these Eastern mantra type prayers, now being taught by disillusioned Roman Catholic priests and New Agers are creeping into the Orthodox faith. Yes, maybe they are swell prayers that captivate the youngins, but appealing to trends and borrowing from other traditions are not really Orthodox methodologies.
Again, I appreciate any insight into why this sort of thing is being allowed. I'll spare you my rather rough theories.