Churching is changing, the world is changing and we are changing and it seems that everywhere we turn we are being reminded of these changes. The pandemic has changed the way we viewed sacred space and sacred time too. We are hungering for intimate times with God. We all need refreshment. We all need to refuel after a crazy year. However, as we rush towards summer, many of us are conflicted about returning to the church building or enjoying a season of travel, hospitality and fun while continuing to join our church communities on zoom.
What this last year has taught me is that God can convert any seasonal symbol into a spiritual practice and any space can be transformed into a sacred space. Spiritual practices can be inspired by a broad array of summer symbols. Everything from beach combing https://godspacelight.com/2020/07/06/meditation-monday-beach-combing-as-spiritual-discernment/ to putting on suntan lotion can be the inspiration for practices that draw us closer to God. God’s eyes guide us in the midst of all our activities. All we need is a little help in slowing down, observing and taking notice, connecting all the wonderful joy filled moments of the season to our faith.
In the midst of all change, we need points of stability and security. This is something I realized years ago during my often destabilizing experiences on the Mercy Ship M/V Anastasis. Working in villages where children were dying of malnutrition, screening patients with deforming cleft lip and palate abnormalities, working with refugees were often overwhelming. It was a little like a pandemic experience. On top of that, my life was filled with travel, and in the midst I realized the need for what I called “at home” items. It was then that I created my first portable sacred space, a travel kit of sacred objects I could take with me no matter where I was. I have continued to created sacred spaces for my life ever since. It is an exercise I highly encourage for all of us, and something that you might like to do with your congregation before the summer travels begin so here is what I did.
I looked online and found all kinds of prayer tins that are designed for on the go spirituality but to be honest most of them are just too small for me and I really wanted to create something that reflected who I am. So I went scavenging through my growing collection of tins and found this old Scottish shortbread tin that had belonged to my aunt. It is a perfect size for me. Room for a few prayer cards, a couple of family photos, a few colored pens, a small cross, an “on the go” labyrinth, a small icon, and even a little cloth that I can spread out in my room to anchor me in a way that makes the place I am visiting feel like home.
I like to include the card sets that I have created over the years. My favorite is still this Celtic set https://godspacelight.com/shop/celtic-prayer-cards/ ). You might like to print out a couple of your favorite psalms. One important item that does not fit in my tin is my journal – with some lined pages and some blank for creative projects, but this is well worth the extra space it takes.
Now that we are becoming more mobile again and expect to do more travel, not just by car but by air, I am planning to reinstitute another of my travel rhythms. I will sit quietly in the airport or at my destination with a cup of coffee and take some quiet time to centre myself. The pandemic have increased the stresses of travel and we need to do all we can to calm our thoughts and minds. I used to travel with a book of morning and evening prayers, my favorite being David Adam’s The Rhythm of Life: Celtic Daily Prayers These days there are so many “On the go” prayer options that I tend to use these instead. My favorites are: Sacred Space – Daily Prayer with the Irish Jesuits and Pray as You Go – also from the Jesuits. I love this daily prayer for your phone.
On the last day of a trip, or on the way home I put my journal in my hand luggage and spend the first part of the flight reflecting on my trip and what I have learned. It is a wonderful way to bring my time to closure as I commit it and all that has happened to God.
Design Your Own Travel Kit
You may not be planning much travel over the next few months but all of us are on the move and I find that a kit like this is helpful even for day trips, so here are some suggestions as you put your own kit together.
- What small object makes a space sacred for you?
- What helps you center yourself on the presence of God?
- What helps you focus?
- What stirs your imagination and provides creative energy for your day?
- What relieves your stress and helps you unwind at the end of the day?
Alternatively you might like to join Lilly Lewin and me for our retreat Making Time for A Sacred Summer, https://godspacelight.com/event/making-time-for-a-sacred-summer/ where we will help all of us create sacred spaces that can form points of stability for the season ahead. Portable sacred spaces for our travel and sacred centerpieces for our desks, dining room tables, or even our gardens. Whether you are heading into summer or winter, these are incredibly important for our lives. I hope you will join us for this time of refreshment and renewal and find points of stability for your life too.