Sacred Space

I just came back from a service set in a school. I know of several church plants meeting in school halls up and down the country. The service was informal and charismatic. It is a lively community who are passionate at proclaiming the good news in their locality and are very welcoming. The worship was honest and sensitive and we heard from an ex member of their congregation who is now training to be an evangelist with the Church Army. Having missed my normal type of worship for some time this was a lovely service where I could really relax and meet with God.

So where’s the usual rant, Ned?

It was difficult, being in a school hall, being surrounded by huge banners proclaiming (not Jesus Christ as Lord) but Year 11’s GCSE success with loads of pictures of celebrating teenagers. I engaged with the worship when I closed my eyes! It reminded me of something Angela Shier-Jones wrote in ‘Pioneer Ministry and Fresh Expressions’. She highlighted the importance of doing a space audit where you go and take note of distracting and unhelpful aspects of the space you’re using for worship.

A worship space must be holy, set apart, sacred. Like a rehearsal room, it needs to be prepared for its use. A rehearsal room must be conducive for the creative purpose. Yoshi Oida in his book ‘The Invisible Actor’ talks of how the Japanese Noh artists would sweep and cleanse the room before a rehearsal to prepare themselves and the space for the holy work they will be doing. This set a brilliant model for Fresh Expressions of church. To pray as they prepare the space for worship. Established churches with their holy buildings sometimes take this for granted but it is clear in Fresh Expressions that preparation of the space is vital.

The impact the space had on the holiness and sacredness of the service came to the fore at communion. At first I thought it was lovely how the distribution of communion was so relaxed and informal. I felt like the community were bonding as they approached the Lord’s table. The unity of the church was celebrated. As it went on, however, the chaotic nature of this sacrament became more and more informal. The holiness and sacredness of this act of worship; the centrality of this celebration and its power was lost as people queued up like it was a fast food joint. This may be too harsh but I felt a lack of respect or understanding of what communion means.

Maybe I’m slowly returning to my Catholic roots… It will please my mum!