Sacred Space

What makes space sacred?

In my mind I conjure up the grandeur of my home congregation University Christian Church in Seattle, Wash. No natural light penetrates the enormous space but diffused light from stained glass gives benevolent warmth. As a child I entered in hushed reverence. As someone recently observed,: “That space worships for you.”

What makes space sacred?

Soft rolling hills of wheat fields; tall redwood trees; rushing streams; a room or space set aside for prayer; pounding surf; a crowded public market abundant with fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers; a dinner table lit with candles and graced by a circle of hands; and some of it even exists inside church buildings.

What makes space sacred?

First, we make space sacred by our intention. The simple act of gathering with the intention to open ourselves to God and to our neighbors creates a sacred space. We light candles, we pause, we pray. Through simple actions we make room for unpredictable nature of the Spirit to enter into the equation of our lives.

Second, we make sacred space through sharing life together. Weekly worship, memorial services, weddings, baptisms resonate throughout sacred space. This can also lead to a sense that we can’t change anything in the space because then it won’t look the same as when we were married or baptized. However, preserving a memory does not make a space more or less sacred: it simply anchors us in the past.

Third, our capacity to experience sacred space lies in our capacity to move from moment to moment, in other words: to be present to what is now. The more we practice this, the more we experience the now-of-life, and each moment presents itself in all its God-drenched sacredness. Throughout Jesus’ life we see his immense capacity to be present to what is and remain connected to God through the worst that human beings can inflict upon one another.

When that kind of life begins to stir in us then the act of coming to worship becomes a joy! What amazing grace to join with others in thanksgiving for what is, tell the truth about the complexity of our lives, offer it all up to God and receive strength to walk through this world as agents of God’s purposes for the world. Sacred space occurs when you and I join with God/Jesus/Holy Spirit to become bread for the world, offer healing and hope, and work to promote true justice and lasting peace.

Finally, we can attend to some basic details of our sacred space. How does the stranger find a welcome? Has clutter piled up in various corners? Does the space have a strong visual focus that lifts us out of ourselves? Do colors change with the changing seasons of the church year? Do we encourage imagination, creativity, spontaneity?

What makes a space sacred?

Not any one thing in particular, but rather everything held gently in love.

The Rev. Laurie Rudel, retired Pastor and active artist, Seattle, Washington

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