Reclaim our Sacred Space
By Rev. Averill Elizabeth Blackburn
During the past several weeks, Florence Congregational Church has gone through a great many changes—and several people have come to me in distress over these changes. I understand. I, too, have been distressed by the one week removal of our cross. I have found the new stage area in our sanctuary to be foreign. I mourned seeing the sign of our church removed from the side lawn.
At times like these, I remind myself that God loves me, because I often forget that key factor. It is so easy to feel alone and that there is no one to talk to. I am always here for all of my congregation as a friendly ear, after coffee hour, on Tuesdays, or over the phone, if you would like to discuss these changes. I can remind you that God loves you, as well, and (just as importantly) that there is someone who isn’t going to tell you “to get over it” or “change with the times.”
However, I am also reminded that sacred space has not always been settled. Most notably what comes to mind is the Second World War, when chaplains had to carry their crosses with them and set up battlefield churches on a moment’s notice with whatever they—and their men—had on them. There were also the early churches, at the very beginning of our Christian movement, that would be set up in secret rooms in houses. The crosses would be hidden in case Roman soldiers came knocking at the door, and household objects would make the space look ordinary to prying eyes instead of holy.
I bring both the instances up because I think we can learn from them. A splash of gold paint (that I have already requested) might make our cross (now removable) stand out against the lattice where it hangs. Objects that we bring ourselves, that have meaning to us, might make the sanctuary feel once again like a place where God resides. An old oriental carpet in someone’s attic (which would be tax deductible) could be loaned to the church and spread out on the new stage area and hide the clashing charcoal floor. The stage is so large, we could even lay out two or more carpets, all homey and warm and inviting, reminding us that this is our home, we are free to worship here in peace.
At the end of each service, they would be rolled up and put safely in my office with our Bible, our candlesticks, and our cross. We are now a church on the move—which falls in line with our history.
We will not lose our church and we have not lost it yet. Let us reclaim it. Let us think of ways to be at home again. Let us think of how we might invite God back into our sanctuary, although I am certain he has never left it.