What is a Sacred Space?

by Lisa DeRosa
what is a sacred space

photo and post by Barbie Perks,

Matthew 5:1-2 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them… The spot overlooking the Sea of Galilee is one of the sacred spaces in Israel and many tour groups spend a morning there. I like to think of it as one of the very first camp/conference experiences in church history! With Jesus as the main speaker – how awesome, and how blessed were those who attended.

As a teenager/young adult, one of my favourite places to go on a youth camp was a site called Cyara. It was an idyllic site, set in the foot of rolling hillside, looking out on the Magaliesberg range, and the secondary site was across the main road, with a little river running through it. A truly magical place to be for a child brought up in the city, with little access to open countryside. The name Cyara was an acronym for Come Ye Apart, Rest Awhile (based on Mark 6:31).

As an older adult, a different campsite was part of our lives and ministry. This one was called Sumcay, which was just an acronym made up of the letters of the organisations that were responsible for the building and running of it – Scripture Union and YMCA. It was located at the end of a sand quarry, a spar of “useless” land next to a tidal river (See photo above). But what a blessing that place turned out to be for many thousands of young children, teenagers, and adults. Various ministries, schools, church groups – the site was booked out year upon year.

The camping ministry is a strong tool to get people out of town and into nature, to rest from the frenetic pace of life, and to reconnect with God and with nature. In South Africa, in the late 80’s and ‘90’s, camping also became a vehicle to facilitate reconciliation and education between the people groups. Some truly life changing, eye-opening moments were experienced around a campfire, in a group dormitory, on a tough mountain hike, or lazing on a sunny beach. Moments when God reached down and touched lives, calling young people into a relationship with Himself, and changing the direction of often hopeless futures.

These are strong sacred spaces in my experience. Land that is found, bought, developed and dedicated as places that God can use. Vision that is planted in one or more people, a search that begins, a listening to the Spirit’s leading. Much, much prayer that bathes and saturates the process. Whole lifetimes have been dedicated to bringing people to a place where they can encounter and experience God for the first time, or a place where they can be discipled, taught and grown into leaders God can use in various spheres of life.

  • Did you ever go to a camp as a child or teenager? What is your most lingering memory of that experience? How did you encounter God?
  • Did you ever serve as a camp leader? What training did you receive and how has that benefited you in adult life?
  • Have you ever been part of that sacred moment when someone responded to God’s calling, whether for the first time, or as an act of recommitment? 
  • Do you have any photographs of these sacred spaces? Dig them out and spend some time with God today, remembering and giving thanks.
  • Is there a person you could prayerfully sponsor to a camping experience in your community? You never know what a difference that could make in their lives.

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