Mental Health and Wellness — Rewiring Your Brain With Common Prayer

Rewiring Your Brain With Common Prayer

My name is Frank. I am a tech addict. And as you are reading this via email or perhaps through a Facebook link, there is a good possibility that you share my compulsion. Before you decide, consider what neuroscientist are telling us about how certain technology usage mimics addictive behavior and is even rewiring your brain.

How technology rewards you:

Much of the way one interacts with the internet and smart phones causes the brain to release small hits of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter once linked to pleasure. Neuroscientists now know that opiates relate to the pleasure centers, while dopamine actually excites the brain to searching and seeking (See Psychology Today article). So as you go clicking around the internet for information or check your phone for a text or your Facebook feed for an update, you are sometimes frustrated by not finding what you want. Other times you are rewarded with the answer you are looking for or perhaps a new text message or Facebook update from someone special to you. The random nature of this success rate is actually part of the allure. Just as the gambling industry has long known that random paybacks of varying amounts keep people hooked longer, so too the frustration of not finding what you are looking for actually hooks you deeper to your email account or Facebook feed (See article in The Atlantic).

The unpredictable nature of when you will get a tech pay off with information you care about is exactly what gets the dopaminergic system going. This activity causes your brain to receive hits of dopamine which itself drives a further desire to search. Watch someone checking their smart phone and know that each time they check for texts or social media updates, dopaminergic neurons are sending out messages to parts of their brain to encourage even more seeking. That obsessive smart phone user is actually getting chemically rewarded for the behavior just like a mouse getting cheese for successfully running a maze.

Why this matters:

This constant search for connection via technology is mentally and physically rewarding, but as the reward is a chemical hit encouraging more seeking, the loop cycles again and again. There is a high cost to this feedback loop which comes in the form of exhaustion. Beyond this we find decreasing attention available for other tasks as multi-tasking is not actually possible. One has to switch from one task to another. Each time one switches tasks, attention suffers. For a well-written look at the tragic consequences this can have, read A Deadly Wandering. The book, by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Matt Richtel, explores matters of attention in detail by using the deadly example of texting while driving. To be clear, I am using the term addiction loosely. The best science would name technology use a compulsion rather than an addiction. While that may seem a semantic distinction only, be aware that if you do kick the tech habit, you still won’t know how difficult it is for your friends in recovery to stay off drugs and alcohol.

The Cure:

The prescription for change is obvious from the nature of the problem. We need to set limits on interacting with technology. Turning off visual and auditory notices of new texts, emails, or other updates helps. This limiting will allow you to decide when you want to check in on this information, rather than having those bings or vibrations give you a hit of dopamine encouraging you to check in. If you have trouble not looking at your phone while driving, lock the phone in the trunk of your car. Set times to check your work email and stick to those times only. It will help to keep these limits to also get away from the computer and the phone altogether. Gardening, hiking, kayaking and other activities that have you interacting with nature are also great antidotes as these activities are rewarding, but the senses are not bombarded in the process. There is also a way that liturgy helps.

Your Brain on the Book of Common Prayer:

Remember the old anti-drug commercial in which they show an egg and say “This is your brain”. Then they crack open the egg and plop it messily into a hot frying pan and the narrator says, “This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?” Beyond this advertising metaphor, we actually have images of the brain on prayer and specifically The Lord’s Prayer. (See article in Lab Times). A Danish study looked at functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) of devoted Christians as they recited a nursery rhyme, asked Santa Claus for things they wanted, prayed improvised prayers and prayed the Lord’s Prayer. While the nursery rhyme and “prayer” to Santa elicited no rewards, the improvised prayers and even more so the Lord’s Prayer excited “the dopaminergic system of the dorsal striatum in practicing individuals.” In other words, the prayers elicited a chemical response in the brain. This benefit is in addition to the documented anti-stress properties found in both meditative prayer–such as Anglican Prayer beads,Jesus Prayer, or Centering Prayer–and in regular corporate worship (See article at Huffington Post and Pew Research article). The photo above shows children praying The Lord’s Prayer in a chapel service at St. Mary’s Anglican School in Belize City. Belize.

Regular worship with the well-crafted, oft prayed prayers of the liturgy actually assist in rewiring your brain in healthy ways as you build and maintain those neural pathways by regularly strengthening them through repeating prayers. Far from mere rote recitation, the liturgy can wire your brain for prayer and will use dopamine to reward you and encourage more searching for God. While science would never be able to say that these practices cause feelings of peace and well being, they are already prepared to say that religious community and prayer do correlate with longer, more fulfilling life (See U.S. News article).

 Your kids and grandkids:

Technology use is a particular problem for younger brains still forming those neural pathways. The best way you can teach the proper place of technology to the digital natives in your own family is through setting proper limits yourself and through teaching the joys of gardening, running, and most importantly praying at home and worshiping together in church.

-The Rev. Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary

*Reprinted with permission from Canon Logue, From the Field:  News and Events of the Church of Georgia, Volume 5, No. 19 (January, 2015) 

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Volunteers Needed for Eggstravaganza on Saturday, April 4

Easter BasketVolunteers and Candy Needed For Easter Eggstravaganza on Saturday, April 4
Youth and adult volunteers are needed to help with this fun day for the children.

Just to name a few areas for volunteers….

Set Up * Decorating * Hunt * Snacks * Crafts * Games * Music * Clean Up
This event can’t happen without volunteers, so if you can be part of this event, please sign up on the bulletin board in front of the office or contact Cheryl Wheeler.

We also need individually wrapped candy donations to fill over 1200 eggs that will be hidden for the hunt. Look for a basket in the Narthex for your donations.

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St. Matthew’s Preschool Openings 2015-2016 School Year

preschool logoThe Preschool & Kindergarten registration is already underway. We have filled both of our Twos classes.  We have opened up another T/Th twos class, and we are excited for this new growth! 

The following classes still have openings:

W/F Toddlers   (5 spots left)

MWF Twos       (Full)
T/Th Twos       (Full)

T/Th Twos       (10 spots left)

MWF Threes    (8 spots left)
M/T-F Threes   (1 spot left)
T-F Fours        (5 spots left)
M-F Fours       (4 spots left)
Kindergarten   (2 spots left)

A $170 registration fee is required to hold your child’s spot. For more information or to schedule a tour, please contact Jeanne or Jennifer at 770-978-1323, or at

Jennifer Schriver                      Jeanne McLarty
Director                                     Asst. Director

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Lenten Mission Project — Book Collection for SPCK

Q. What on earth is SPCK?

A. SPCK or the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge is a very old mission organization in the Anglican Communion. Begun in England, SPCK/USA has its headquarters at The School of Theology at The University of the South at Sewanee.

Q. What type of books are needed?
A. Bibles (any translation or language), Books of Common Prayer (any edition or language) and any other religious texts are welcomed.

Q. How are they used?
A. Books collected and donated to SPCK are redistributed, free of charge, to churches, schools, universities and individuals who request them. Many are sent to other countries and to parishes in the United States that are hungry for the GOOD NEWS.

Q. Where can I leave my books for SPCK?
A. During Lent, a bin will be in the old Narthex clearly marked for SPCK donations. Your donations will be taken to SPCK’s headquarters after Easter Sunday.

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SE Gwinnett Cooperative Ministry Starts A New Program

The “Give a Meal – Get a Meal” Program, Fondly Known As GAMGAM”

cannedfoodYou have the opportunity to bless a family by purchasing all the needed ingredients for the “Recipes of the Month”.You would purchase all nonperishable ingredients on the list, bagging a complete set of all the non-perishable ingredients together. You can purchase the perishable ingredients, bagging them separately, if you will be delivering directly to the co-op. If not, you can make a donation to St. Matt’s Outreach for the perishable items, and we will either purchase and deliver them or send the money to the co-op. The co-op will then offer these bagged ingredients, along with the recipe, to their clients. “This process is a great way to learn to cook economic and healthier meals.”
This program is being introduced via Sunny’s Kids and Youth Sunday School as a great Lenten family opportunity if they should choose to take it on. If you don’t have children/youth in the Sunday School program but find this interesting the current ingredients list can be found on the Outreach bulletin board.


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Notes From the Senior Warden

MallardBentonOn February 4th the Sanctuary Choir was practicing “African Alleluias” for the Last Sunday in Epiphany, February 15th. Dan Mitchell was convinced that the piece could be enhanced with drum accompaniment and had looked around for assistance. On February 8th at breakfast in the Fellowship Hall, Dan came and sat with Steven Donavon and me, and as the two of them talked a bit, Steven and Adrienne’s son Chris was mentioned as a possible drummer for us. Steven told Dan, “Go ask him….” Dan did, and Chris agreed to accompany the choir.

Following his homework and Bible Study with the youth, Chris arrived in the sanctuary where the choir was practicing. After a couple of false starts, the drum came to life; the choir was reacting to Dan’s direction, the piano, and the drum, and it was m-u-s-i-c, M-U-S-I-C! Sunday the 15th at the second service, the anthem was well received, in large part because of Chris’s participation. What a gift he was to the choir and to all who were worshiping at 10:30.

It’s popular to speak about gifts as tangible, as objects we have, talents we share, checks we write. It’s not often enough that we see ourselves and others as gifts. But we are.

And I experienced more gifts on the same Sunday as I visited two Sunday School classes. Eleven young people altogether and six adults between the two classes. Yes, the adults were sharing their time and their talents, but more than anything they were gifting these children with their presence.


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From the Rector

Mother Liz & PJMarking Sacred Time: Changes for Lent

As we approach March, we have entered into the season of Lent.  Our journey is based on the gospel accounts of Christ’s forty days in the wilderness.  At last Sunday’s confirmation service at the cathedral (Congratulations, Sharon Ferrell!), Bishop Whitmore said that in ancient Jewish thought, the wilderness represented the place where the demons lived.  Jesus spent time facing the demons and temptations that could get in the way of his ministry, and he overcame them.  So we are called also to look deeply into ourselves and to identify the demons that keep us from fully living into the life God has for us.   This discipline is not so much about us chastising ourselves, but realizing the ways in which we fall short of the glory of God and then asking God to help us have victory over them.

In order to create space in which to fully embrace this season, we have made changes in the space in which we worship and also in how we worship.  Janis Williams and the Flower Guild have done an amazing job of creating wilderness in the way they used sand, stone and branches in the sanctuary.  You will notice that the baptismal font is covered.  We have created a quiet space in the narthex, so that persons entering can have a sense of moving from the world of the everyday into the space of the sacred.  This change has also created quiet in the nave for persons who wish to meditate or pray before the service.  The service is subdued, with silent processions at the beginning and at the end of the service. We are altering the way we share the Peace, to recapture the sense of “shalom” or our prayer to the other person for health, wholeness, and completeness in God.  In order to provide an alternative place to allow us to show visitors our warm Southern hospitality, we have reinstituted coffee hour in the Parish Hall after the 10:30 service.  And beginning March 15, we will offer “Coffee with the Rector” after the 10:30 service on the third Sunday of the month.  (Coffee with the Rector will begin after the 8 a.m. service on the third Sunday in April).

We have returned to the booklet form for the service bulletin, in order to allow space to put in new music or allow approved changes in the liturgy that may not be in the prayer book.  This change also provides increased space for announcements, so that we might better communicate the variety of activities and ministry opportunities available at St. Matthew’s.

If one of your Lenten disciplines is to volunteer for service, we have at least three opportunities where you can participate during Lent.  For the Gwinnett Cooperative, we are focusing on a program called Give a Meal, Get a Meal, where we shop for ingredients for specific recipes.  We are also providing the list and a shopping bag to children in Sunday School.  It is our hope that you will take your children shopping for one or more of these items, letting them know that the food is for someone who does not always have enough to eat.  Each Sunday during Lent, the children are invited to bring the food to a basket in the chancel.  All children are invited to come forward, whether they have food to offer or not, because all of the children will help me bless the donated food before they go to Sunday school.  A second option for service is the Hunger Walk on March 15 – sign-up information is on the link or on the bulletin board in the hallway leading to the Parish Hall.  And the third option is a parish workday, scheduled for March 28.

It is my prayer that these offerings in worship and service will deepen your journey through Lent and heighten your joy at Easter.  These changes are experimental for Lent, but some changes may be kept if we find it improves our collective worship.  I would enjoy hearing your comments as to whether you like them or not.  You can write me, or speak with me after the service.

With prayers for a Holy Lent,



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