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Weekly e-Gram for members and friends of Dublin Community Church

March 18, 2011

SACRED SPACE

I rather enjoy watching the TV show where deserving families receive a complete home makeover. Construction workers and architects and builders descend upon a family in need. The host announces their good fortune. The family is whisked off to Disneyland and the construction takes place in about six days. On the final day the family is returned amidst cheering and receive their new home. It is all good. Families in need receive a new lease on life.

But, for me, THE moment is watching the look on their faces when they enter their new world. Their new home. Of course the camera, music and host make it dramatic; but take a moment and really look at their faces, their eyes. They are entering their new home; a place that is sacred.

That moment is the one that was given to me several times a day while on Sabbatical. Walking down the street. Seeing a cathedral or church. Entering for the first time. Adjusting your eyes from the daylight sun to the cool darkness of the interior of the sanctuary. Feeling the delight at having “discovered” this beautiful sacred place for the first time.

All around these churches are the busy streets with commuters and cars and buses and thousands who do not know what lies in wait for them inside. But many of us stopped, and drank in the cool air of the interior while adjusting our eyes to see the sacred objects which defined that particular house of worship.

One of the more interesting aspects of our travels was experiencing the continuation of “sacred space” when disaster or reconstruction happens to that sacred space.

The small Jewish Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of Cordoba was left when the Jews were forced out of the country in the late 1400‘s. It became a Christian Church for I don’t know how long…as witnessed by the cross found painted on the walls in later years. The entire building was a business place for a long time, the most recent as a shoemaker’s shop. The sacredness of the synagogue and church were covered over, but have been uncovered by historians and artifacts were found. The sacred place was recreated and today when tourists stop in, there is a strong sense of sacredness which remains.

The nearby Mesquitza, a Mosque, has a Roman Catholic Church within the walls of that former Mosque. (The Muslims were expelled in the late 1400’s also). The sacred space of one faith builds upon another. (And that Mosque occupied the same space as a former Roman Catholic Church which pre-dates it.)

The Alhambra in Granada contains both mosque and Catholic church. Rivalries and hatred and government takeovers do little to erase the feeling of sacredness for places. Countless “new” places of worship are built on top of the remains of old sacred places. Churches modernize and update and build right on top of where they were.

It is their place. It is their place of experiencing the sacred.

I enjoy showing new people the two sanctuaries where we worship each week. I enjoy their reactions. If they are talking about a wedding or about possibly worshipping on a regular basis with us, I first take them to the Gladden Chapel. Right outside the front door is four lanes of traffic. Inside we have a bit of the late 1800’s. People respond with smiles and appreciation that something so old (it’s all relative) remains in the Dublin area. I then walk them to the main “new” sanctuary and with a bit of a flourish open the sanctuary doors.

The new sanctuary is bright and white and much bigger than the Gladden and people always let out an “Ahh!” I like that moment.

Our church’s place of worship has moved only a couple blocks, a few times in the past two hundred years. Since 1877 this has been “our” sacred space.

No matter how grand or modest. No matter if it is a Cathedral or corner church or neighborhood mosque or simple synagogue, there truly is a sense of the sacred within the walls (or even destroyed walls) or that which is deemed holy.

And even if the sacred space no longer is a destination of the worshipping congregation, the sacredness remains. Even tourists can feel it and the vast majority of them respect it as they wander the aisles and observe the art. It is hard to explain.

But that is the nature of anything sacred; you can only experience it. And that is precisely why it is sacred.

Peace, Rev. Bob Tussing

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