Creating Sacred Spaces – Do We Really Need Churches?

by Christine Sine
The created world is God's sanctuary

The created world is God’s sanctuary

Our annual Celtic retreat is coming. We hold it in August on a beautiful parcel of undeveloped land on Camano Island north of Seattle. There are no buildings. Our sanctuary is a cathedral of trees – cedar and maple and alder that rise above is in a breathtaking green canopy. I particularly love to sit in the early mornings before anyone else is awake, drinking in the beauty of God’s awe inspiring creation. This is a sacred space for me, what is often called a thin space where the veil between heaven and earth seems to be translucent and the glory of God shines through in a special way.

Special places where we feel almost physically embraced by the love of God are important places of prayer for all of us. Be they a comfortable old armchair we return to day by day, a special place to walk or a garden seat that invites us to stop and smell the roses, they should be nurtured and preserved. However we don’t need these special places and we certainly don’t need churches to create a sanctuary in which we can meet God. God very reluctantly gave the Israelites permission to build a place of worship. I think he knew that temples and churches would limit our understanding of sacred space and places in which we meet and commune with God.

If we expect to meet with the One we love wherever we walk, listen look and learn, all of God’s creation becomes a sacred space where we can interact with God, experience the love of God and see the story of God unfold. As C.S. Lewis expresses it: “Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are ‘patches of Godlight’ in the woods of our experience.”

God’s first act in the newly created world we call Earth was to create a garden in which to walk, talk and share a loving relationship with humankind. This sacred space was alive with the presence of God and I am sure that as Adam and Eve looked around them everything they saw, touched, smelled and tasted reminded them of their creator. The tragedy of our present condition is that we are not only separated from the presence of God, we are blind to the sanctuary that is God’s entire creation and deaf to all that speaks of God’s love throughout our created world.

God is constantly revealed through the creation as Psalm 19: 1-4 relates so clearly:

The heavens proclaim the glory of God.

The skies display his craftsmanship.

Day after day they continue to speak;

night after night they make him known.

They speak without a sound or word;

their voice is never heard.

Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,

and their words to all the world.

Sociologist Lisa Graham McMinn explains: The wonders of the earth call out, inviting those who are mindful – who hear, see, taste and smell – to praise and honor God whose creation brings us pleasure and sustenance.

Nature has always been a wonderful stimulant to my prayer life but as I learned to see the entire creation as a sacred space, its revelations became even more profound and my ability to see, hear and listen to God was expanded far beyond the church building. The whole world and my interactions with it became an invitation to look for God at work, listen to what God was saying and question what God was doing. These interactions help me to understand the story of God and how it is enacted in our world and in my life. A walk in the mountains, the planting of seeds, inhaling the heady perfume of my favorite rose, caressing the soft fur of our golden retriever often draw me into a place of deep intimacy with the God whose loving presence is expressed in all I see, hear, feel and smell.

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14 comments

Greg Valerio May 10, 2012 - 5:20 am

Reblogged this on Chasing Columba.

mysticbluerose May 10, 2012 - 9:03 pm

That sounds so amazing. I wish with all my heart that I could be there.

Christine Sine May 11, 2012 - 4:45 am

Thanks

Christine Sine April 17, 2013 - 7:19 am

Reblogged this on Godspace and commented:

I am starting a series on Creating Sacred Space and decided to begin by reposting this very popular post from last year which is adapted from my book Return to Our Senses. What is sacred space for you? Where do you you feel closest to God? How can nurture such spaces? If you would like to contribute a post for this series please let me know.

waymarkers April 17, 2013 - 8:27 am

Reblogged this on waymarkers: the blog and commented:
My friend, Christine Sine of Mustard Seed Associates, reflects on the deep value of the outside world for inducing awareness of God all around us. This inherent inclination to see the divine in the beauty and goodness of Nature was a prominent practice of the early Celtic Church. God is revealed to us through the created world; how will you get outside today to encounter the Creator?

Andy April 17, 2013 - 8:39 am

I agree with this-the sacredness of a world shot through with God’s spirit. The early Celtic Christians found inspiration in the two books-the book of scripture and the book of nature.
Perhaps also in ‘the goodness of creation’ Christian and pagan may find common ground. Firmly rooted in the ground of all being.

Christine Sine April 17, 2013 - 9:24 am

Andy much of my early inspiration for this viewpoint came from Celtic Christian spirituality. Orthodox Christians hold a similar view. I think that the industrial revolution did a lot of harm in changing our view to a utilitarian rather than sacred view of creation.

Andy April 18, 2013 - 4:20 am

I agree. My own particular journey has been buoyed by the examples of the many Irish/British saints that walked these scattered islands that I find myself in. The many remote places as well as the urban sprawl in which we may seek out what Philip Newall described as ‘the heartbeat of God’ in his wonderful book.
Thank you for your great post. Inspiration is all around us!

Pieter Stok April 17, 2013 - 7:41 pm

My wife and I have taken up hiking in our latter years and we can reaffirm what you say.

Christine Sine April 17, 2013 - 8:18 pm

Thanks Pieter

Christine Sine April 18, 2013 - 7:09 am

Thanks Andy – may God bless your journey as we walk together closer to the heart of God

Tee Fay April 23, 2013 - 8:14 am

Talk about synchronicity; I literally just wrote a post saying that we don’t need to go to church to have a sacred space. Of course the church will probably frown upon such talk, but I wholeheartedly agree with you!

Christine Sine April 23, 2013 - 9:23 am

Thanks Tee. I think many of us are realizing that we can created sacred space wherever we are if we do so with reverence and intentionality

walksinglory June 4, 2013 - 6:16 am

Reblogged this on Walks in Glory and commented:
God brought many of these thoughts posted below by Christine Sine alive to me in January when my family and I went on a 5 week trip to Hawaii. I spent a lot of time on our hikes looking at detail, walking with God and talking with Him about HIS art. He is wanting to communicate with us through His creation – – notice in Psalms 19 how many words are used to convey that very thing! He is amazingly multifaceted!
Hope you enjoy this reblog:

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