Sacred Space and Pilgrimage


Thoughts from my afternoon seminar on Sacred Space and Pilgrimage

A typology of Pilgrimage:

Aims of pilgrimage are to:

• Ordering: Pilgrimage is about ordering the space and time for something in particular, the encounter

• Imagine community: we become aware that we are aware of a group for a time, that we are in community with. We imagine we are part of a greater community than we have been

• Communicate, with the divine or transcendent: Lourds, a lot of the sick go there and die peacefully, people from all over the world worshipping, a transcendent experience with so many other people and with something you aren’t sure of, of the Divine. People who go say they are touched by something

• Embody, forms of communion with the Divine

• Collaborate, with other pilgrims: You have to let go of something of yourself to go with others, and gain something else

• Influence, thought and behaviour

• Displace, rival images and ideologies or at least challenge and confront: Problem with our fixed ideas, and facing a liminal experiences and to have our views challenged, and see them anew, or new views.

Four Functions of Space: 1. Sacred space as centre • We do this unconsciously and naturally. When we get up we do similar things in a way we like to hold us into our routine, even on holiday we have our own things to do. • We all need space around us, to have people to stay out of our space. • Road rage, seen as people violating our space, that we have created as ours, seeing the car as an extension of us in our commuting pilgrimage.

2. Sacred space as meeting point • We need special places to meet together. Places deemed to be sacred, mount Ararat etc. Mountains and Caves, are used regularly. But also in strange places. • Lourdes, a lady digging in a cess pit that is now Lourdes. • Some holy places are ugly, the temple in Jerusalem built on the site of Jesus tomb? Ugly but so many people go that it is still imbued with sacredness. • Meetings points of the Divine coming down to be with us. The Eastern Byzantine tradition is about the cosmos coming into the worship place, by using incense, making holy the 4 corners of the worship place as consecration.

3. Sacred space as microcosm • You are not only encountering the space itself but a representation of the space beyond, the universal notion of space. • Turner “from mid temple to meeting place’. The temple is the representation of the heavens and the earth. Our early churches had floors with a defined topography, labyrinths for pilgrimage, whilst you are singing a chant. A direct route in and a direct route out a different way. You meet each other but never touch, as you journey to the centre and then journey out again. • It is a replica in our mind and spirits of the heavens and the new earth. • Symbolic reference points, the East, towards it, as East being a physical orientation and metaphorical representation. • It helps orientate a place an connect it to something bigger than itself. • Obstacles provide a sense of encounter…we need them to experience the sacred. • (me): again are we removing too many things for people.

4. Sacred space as immanent-transcendent presence • The scared space isn’t open all the time, it is often bounded, with processes for entering and leaving, you have to go on a pilgrimage to get into the space. • A place where the divine is very real but not always there, available at all times in the same way. • The presence of God is everywhere he wants, but is more immanent in encounters at special times and special places. • The tension about where God isn’t, as we experience him in everyday day, or don’t. • This is the temple image of space, of intense encounter with God • (me) where is the temple process as a community in Emerging church, rather than individual participation?

My full notes are