What is Sacred Space?

Sacred Space is where you discover all that is holy in you, around you, and above you. It’s where you go to dwell with God.

–Caroline Myss

When I was very little, maybe four or five years old, the most sacred place I knew was the sanctuary in our small town United Methodist Church where my best friend’s dad was the minister. We used to climb on the jungle gym outside, play hide and seek in the Sunday school rooms, and run down the halls in impromptu games of tag. When we would reach the sanctuary, however, and the big double doors swung open – well, our voices instantly became soft, we slowed our pace, and we would gently tiptoe from one side to the other to exit the hallowed room so we could begin our games again. Funny thing is I don’t remember ever being explicitly told not to run through the sanctuary. We probably were told that, but what I remember is the way everyone would change as they walked across that threshold. In an instant, voices lowered, walking slowed, and people became calm. There was something about the rituals, the prayers, the hymns, and the candles that made that one space in the church the holy space. So from a very young age I knew that there were certain places that were sacred, set apart from the normal routine of everyday life that connected me to something big, something beyond myself.

Mircea Eliade in his classic text The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion, describes our encounters in these holy places as experiences of the sacred that, “effects a break in plane, that is it opens communication between the cosmic planes (between earth and heaven) and makes possible the ontological passage from one mode of being to another” (pg. 63). Put another way, when we enter these sacred spaces in our lives we are transported into the mystery of God. Many of us have had some experience of feeling the transcendent in a religious building, in the glorious majesty of nature, or in a sacred site of pilgrimage. Perhaps we felt changed in our body as well as our mind. Perhaps our breath slowed, colors looked more vibrant, the air felt as though it were a blanket wrapping around us, or we simply felt calm. The experience of the sacred in these holy places produces different reactions for each person.

The purpose of these sacred spaces is to give us a place to recalibrate. Anne Knor in Sacred Space at Home, explains the purpose of holy places, “This is what sacred space does. It restores a sense of balance in our life where we can experience wonder, joy, and delight” (pg. 61). Most definitely our sacred spaces, those particular unique places that draw us into the presence of God provide both refuge and balance in our often hectic and stressful lives. I would go a step further than Knorr, however, and propose that our sacred spaces give us a distinct space where we can be fully ourselves. Our most sacred places in our life are the places where we can be happy, grateful, honest, scared, sad, and ultimately vulnerable.

We need to expand our understanding and conception of what constitutes a sacred space. Sacred Spaces by Lauren seeks to widen the definition of a sacred space and embrace many different methods to create such spaces so that people can connect with God in their hearts and homes. We are not to be relegated to our formal religious sanctuaries or places of worship (though there is nothing wrong with these spaces as sacred, of course), but I want us to envision how we can create holy spaces in our homes, our relationships, our places of work, and all areas of our lives in order to connect with God. In these spaces we can engage in a variety of spiritual practices that may include praying, journaling, dance, yoga, gardening, painting, pottery-making, cooking, carpentry – any practice that helps us to become still in spirit, to find refuge from the busy outside world, and connect to the holy presence of God.

Over the course of this blog, I want to help you to imagine new sacred spaces in your life. I firmly believe that without these sacred spaces we lose our ability to connect deeply with the holiness of God. I believe that we need sacred spaces in our lives to grow into the best version of ourselves. Anne Knor notes that, “Our spirit craves solitude, yet we give it up so easily when life’s demands keep us busy” (pg. 52). Perhaps the greatest challenge in our modern culture is the carving out of time and space to encounter the sacred. I am here to give you permission to find this space, to create this space for yourself. As an adult, I appreciate the hushed voices and slower pace that were found in that small Texas town sanctuary as a child. As a community, when we entered the sanctuary, we attuned and reoriented our whole selves to the reality of God. Ultimately, when we embrace these sacred spaces in our lives, we give our minds, hearts, and bodies the opportunity to be aligned to the spirit of God. Alignment transforms us so that we may become bearers of light and grace in this world. As the Apostle Paul teaches us, our spirits begin to reflect God and we increase in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. So, I look forward to our journey together to connect to God in our hearts and homes together!