Monday, December 13, 2010

Sacred Places

Eden is doing a seminar with Sacred Places, an organization dedicated to helping pastors and congregations preserve their older church buildings and making them still feel both usable and sacred. (Jan 6-7, check their website under events)

It looks like I may get to go, which I'm really looking forward to. I'm hoping to learn about resources for St. John's, and more generally, resources for the wider church.

In some ways, this dovetails with an idea planted by discussion I had at church this weekend. What is it that makes it a sacred space?

Right now, I think it's the liminality of a church. There is an aspect of it being God's space, but all space belongs to God, so that's not all of it. There is also an aspect of it being a place for a congregation to gather. Mostly, it feels like it's about the space between those two, where we meet God and God meets us.

To walk into a church or into any other dedicated house/place of worship is to cross a boundary between the mundane and the divine...though, because we're still human, we are still bound to the world even in such a space. Stuck between. The table seems to be even more so, being the stuff of the earth made by human hands, and yet it's God's table, the bread and wine representing holy substance for the nourishment of our souls, and Jesus, being fully human and fully divine, is the ultimate liminal being.

So if a sacred space is the place between, that doesn't mean we're just talking about churches or about buildings. It also means the spaces inside us where we shove enough of the 'real world' aside to listen to God and maybe to hear God. It's also everything about our journey in God/with God, through life, because we're on our way between places, times, identities, states of being.

And there was the Eureka (damn it)! moment, going "bong!" in my head. If the sacred space is the space between, and I feel like I'm on the road to Ninevah or lost in that famous desert, that's where I need to be, because it's the space between that is most important and sacred and special in it's own right. (Eventually, I will get why "it's the journey, not the destination" is such a koan if God pounds it into me enough!)

Of course, this is what I'm thinking this week. After two days of listening to experts, expect a post on the same general topic, going a different direction, because I know it will happen that way. It usually does.

But as I think about it, God seems to frequently have a more felt presence in liminal spaces, at boundaries of time (at the Beginning and in the End, at our births and at our deaths), at crossroads of life and the world, the borders of reality, waiting to open doorways (just knock!), or on roads. It's not that God's *in* Damascus or Tarsus or even Ninevah, it's that God is on *the road to.*

And now that I've processed that all out, I'm going to go smack myself in the head for not getting it sooner, that this situation counts just as much as any other I've ever dealt with.


  1. Then God is also found in the space between two people, and in crossing that space you can find God.

    Limnality is a tricky subject. Liminal spaces are sites not only of spirituality but also of transgression. Or, perhaps, the sacred is also transgressive. The sacred and the profane mix in those spaces. Perhaps that is part of the puzzle.

  2. Mike, I'm going to have to ponder that for a bit. Hmm. I like that.