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Thin Places

Thin Places

The view at Clonmacnoise


For the first time in many years, I’m taking a brief diversion from the Daily Office lectionary and instead, taking a brief point of personal privilege.  Truth is, I’m barely over the jet lag from a recent pilgrimage to Ireland and Scotland, and haven’t even begun to totally re-synch my brain to my life on this side of the pond.


Celtic Christianity takes great stock in “thin places”–the places where the veil is so thin, it’s almost like God is visible.  Those places are in nature, in life, and in the faces of those we meet. They are always there, but it’s up to us to recognize them.


The photo above is of the “thinnest place” on my pilgrimage…the ruins at Clonmacnoise, Ireland.  I was humbled to have had the opportunity to celebrate a midweek Eucharist there with our pilgrimage group.  About midway through the celebration, it suddenly dawned on me that what I was doing, had been done roughly 1500 years before me. Sure, the words were different, it was being done by a person of a different gender, but still…it was all the same.  St. Cieran, buried in the floor, had done what I was doing, as well as many more saints more saintly than me. All those stones you see in the picture were of people who were gathered just as we were gathered. Bread was eaten, followed by a swig of wine.  The Holy Spirit came down just as she was that day.


It is so easy to get wrapped up in the temporal state of the church today.  We hear, “The church is dying.” “The church will die if we don’t XYZ, or if we don’t focus on ABC.”  We wring our hands and clutch our pearls.


As I looked out at the view you see in the picture, it dawned on me–Those people died.  Those buildings died. But the church–oh, the church, she is very much alive, and she lives as long as people are gathered together and the Eucharist is celebrated.


Where are the “thin places” in your life, where you can almost touch a vision of God?


Maria Evans splits her week between being a pathologist and laboratory director in Kirksville, MO, and gratefully serving in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri , as the Interim Pastor at Christ Episcopal Church, Rolla, MO.


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Thomas Rightmyer

Clonmacnoise is indeed one of the “thin places” where we could feel the prayers of the saints. The Church of Ireland chapel was closed when we were there some years ago, though the large open air altar where Pope John Paul II celebrated was open. The CofI has a full communion agreement with the Irish Methodist Church. Pray that the Episcopal UMC agreement will be approved by the UMC in 2020 and by the Episcopal Church for the second time in 2021. I was privileged to be part of the NC UMC-TEC dialogue in the 1990’s.

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