For those of you who might have had the opportunity to read my article, Where is your church? (Convergent Streams magazine, Third Quarter 2013. Volume 1. Number 1), I am going to build upon those thoughts. If you have not read it, the premise is simple- there are many clergy who do not have a “physical church building” in which to worship. There are some options, limited as they maybe. There are hospital or nursing home chapels to be solicited, other houses of worship willing to open their doors to other congregations (United Churches of Christ, as an example) or outdoor venues; such as parks or beaches. Initially I tried such an option, a nearby hospital chapel, but was met with courteous questions: how many people did I expect and what were my insurance protections for limited liability? Needless to say, two questions without adequate answers.
We should always be reminded of the most basic, Christ tells us: “For where two or more gather in my name, there am I also.” (Matthew 18:20) So in the worship and adoration of God, it shouldn’t- and needn’t, be a concern as to where worship, praise and prayer takes place. For that matter, form and format should not be a concern either. Again Christ tells us: “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners so they may be seen by others. But when you pray, go into your room alone and close the door and pray to your Father in heaven. For your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:5-6)
Nevertheless, for those of us clergy and religious- it is a spiritual comfort and inspiration to have a sacred space in which to pray, reflect and be at one with God. Surprisingly, it is something easily achieved and maintained. We have all seen those outdoor tributes, statues of the Blessed Mother or Christ in gardens or in front of homes. Forgive me for being judgmental, but I wonder if these ever receive the attention and inspiration they deserve. I digress. As a resident of the seasonal and temperamental northeast- not to mention restrictions places upon me by apartment community restrictions, such outdoor tributes are not possible.
So I- we, need to set apart a sacred space within our homes where we can go and be with God- to worship God. It does not have to be grand- adorned with the trappings of a cathedral, but it does have to be reverent, respectful and sincere. A place or area within the home where a visitor would know- you are a Christian and indeed, Christ is present in this place.
For me it is a sacred space in the corner of our dining room. A high top table which supports a wine rack underneath. On this table sits a collection of green plants surrounding my most prized religious possession- a ceramic and porcelain statute of Jesus on the cross. (Such a simple statue purchased in a hospital gift shop to watch over my mother in her final days.) And to the side my husband’s most prized possession, a porcelain statute of our Blessed Mother. (A statute that was his mothers and may be perhaps eighty years old.) Together the sight and placement of these holy statutes, demand the reverence and respect. It is here, or from a nearby chair, that I can worship and pray.
To add to the beauty and adoration of this sacred space, I ensure that Christ is always present and mindful. This is done by the purchase and placement of a ‘seven day’ religious candle. (The kind easily purchased at any supermarket) Lit in transition and prayer- the “light of Christ” never goes out in our apartment.
In a useful pastoral handbook, The Book of Occasional Services (2003), there is even a format- “Setting Apart Secular Space for Sacred Use”.
“Blessed are you, O God, ruler of the universe. Your gifts are many, and in wisdom you have made all things to give you glory. Be with us now and bless us as we dedicate our use of this space to your praise and honor. As often as we worship you here, precede us and abide with us. Be known to us in the Word spoken and heard, in fellowship with one another, and in the breaking of bread. Give us joy in all your works, and grant that this space may be a place where your will is done and your name glorified; through Jesus Christ our Savior, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we pray. Amen.” (BOS p.245)
So dedicate such a place within your home, apartment or even your room. A place for reflection and reverence- for you Mass Sine Populo, to pray for the Church Suffering and celebrate the Church Triumphant! We rejoice for those who have actual churches- to call the attention of the world to the love and promise of our Lord, but no less is the splendor and majesty of our Sacred Space in a Secular Place!
Oh yes- for those of you that did read my “Where is your church?” I am still praying and searching for that church building to celebrate a beautiful Mass. Nothing extravagant mind you, but a pipe organ would be nice.