Hear, O hear, with the ear of the heart. These chanted words begin each day's video on Lindsay Boyer's YouTube channel News of the World Lectio. The short videos, each no more than two minutes long, represent an innovative way of praying for the world that brings together the centuries-old spiritual practices of chant and lectio divina (sacred reading).
In each video, Boyer meditatively chants words from an article in that day's edition of The New York Times, then chants a prayer based on a scriptural text, often from the Psalms, that thematically links with the news story. For the video on December 31, 2013, for example, Boyer chanted from a story about the release of a French priest who had been kidnapped in Cameroon in mid-November, then chanted this prayer: Turn your gaze toward me and save my life with a look from your great eye.
Boyer, GTS '03, is an Adjunct Professor in Ascetical Theology at The General Theological Seminary. In the Fall of 2013, she taught a new course in the spiritual direction program, Exploring Spiritual Presence and Practice through Digital Media. She began the News of the World Lectio series both for her own prayer life and to demonstrate for her students how digital media can be used to create new contemplative practices that can be shared in community.
"Digital media invite us to try new things," Boyer said, "in collaboration with viewers." She learned, for example, of the need to take her image out of the moment of contemplation. Seeing her face, friends told her, was distracting for their prayer. This led Boyer, who is also an artist, to begin creating masks which she uses to hide her face from view. "These videos are not about instruction. I'm not trying to tell you what to think about the news, so it's best for the viewer not to see me." Boyer said. "I'm hoping to open the viewer up to the news and to pray with it."
Through her daily practice, Lindsay has discovered that she is better able to relate to the news. Stories seems less extraneous to her own life. "When I chant the news, I take it into my own body," she explained. Further, she finds that she can better absorb sad or disturbing news. "When I chant the news, I do not feel as battered by it," she said. "As prayer, it makes what seems too big and overwhelming for me more manageable. I become more able to hold difficult material."
This, Boyer said, leads her to wonder what the fruits of her practice might be for others, too.