Sacred Spaces

Originally published on tvprays.org.

1The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,

the world and those who dwell therein.

2For the Lord has founded it upon the seas

and established it upon the rivers.

3Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord,

and who may stand in God’s holy place?

(from Psalm 24, ELW translation)

I have been thinking a great deal about sacred spaces since the pandemic began, but especially in the last few weeks. I was an early encourager of all of us creating sacred spaces in our homes, posting photos of what a home altar might include. When we were in quarantine in the spring and I was participating as best I could from my kitchen table, with candle and cross on hand, that place become something of a sacred space. (Here is a resource from Women of the ELCA on creating sacred spaces.)

I thought about sacred spaces again when people voiced their appreciation for seeing our sanctuary during pre-recorded or live streaming worship. This led to us offering times when people could come sit in the sanctuary in silence—a weekday morning and a Sunday afternoon. No one signed up. Interesting, I mused.

The yearning for the building made me just a bit nervous. I have belonged to a variety of churches with different architecture, histories, and degrees of attachment to buildings. I whole-heartedly agreed with the sentiment expressed all over my social media feed, “Buildings are closed. But church is open.” For weeks I could not get Jay Beech’s The Church Song out of my head, “The church is not a building where people go to pray; it’s not made out of sticks and stones, it’s not made out of clay….The church, it is the people living out there lives, called, enlightened, sanctified for the work of Jesus Christ.”

Most of us know whole congregations or individuals who make idols of buildings which is not healthy for our relationships with God or the life of faith. I wonder if we need so many church buildings across the Treasure Valley. In the year before the pandemic, I read multiple articles about churches across the United States repurposing the spaces in their buildings for their neighbors.

I thought about sacred spaces once more while cleaning up after the second Sunday worship our congregation held on our lawn. We have also held an evening Lament service and an evening Pet Blessing service. In addition, several teams have had meetings on the lawn. I reflected that the lawn has become a sacred space for me in 2020 and it is because I have so consistently spent time there with other bodies hearing scripture read, praying, and discerning. 

This new feeling about our lawn made me think about other sacred spaces in my life. I thought about the rock outcroppings above the house I grew up in, in the central portion of The Black Hills. I thought about meadows in the Absaroka Mountains of Montana where I led Bible Studies and worship. I thought about beautiful and old churches I have visited—St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans’ French Quarter, Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, and the Church of Reconciliation at Taizé. Whenever I have visited these places, or other sacred spaces, I feel connected to the bodies who I am with or who have been there before. I like knowing that bodies of Christians have been gathering for centuries and reading the same old, old story of Jesus’ love.  

Today, I am thankful that the church has consistently had people and events to remind us that God is certainly in the everyday, which includes our homes, our workplaces, our schools, our gardens and lawns. The ordinary can be and is sacred. I am always going to need sacred places to gather with others, because I am single—homes, sanctuaries, and pilgrimage sites. Instead of an either/or answer, this may be a time for both/and. 2020 is a time to remember that the ordinary can be sacred space and we occasionally should gather with other bodies in spaces (natural or built with human hands) that hold beauty or history or awe.

Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for making creation good and blessing it. Help us see the sacred and holy in what we might consider ordinary. Watch over us as we safely gather bodies together to offer you our thanks and praise.

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