As I continue to ponder the idea of sacred places and a longing for home, I keep coming back to the Celtic idea of "thin places." CAOL AIT - spots in the world where the physical world and the spiritual world come close, the barrier between them is thin. This idea often refers to holy sites, but also refers to in-between places and times (dawn, dusk, forest edges, the seashore). Apparently in these landscapes that are not quite one thing or another the spirit world has an easier time breaking through. As much as I find the concept of thin places appealing, I'm not entirely sure what I really think.
I remember hearing a very evangelical pastor say in a sermon once that dusk was useless. At dusk one has neither the light of day or the darkness of night, so its obviously useless. My reaction to his words was to invoke the Celtic ideas of thin places - dusk is an in-between time, the time when the fey and fairies enter our world, a time when magic can happen! Not that I necessarily believe in faeries, just in the beauty of the concept. I like the idea of there being specific places or times where one finds it easier to connect with spiritual things, but I also have some theological issues with it.
If I don't believe in a gnostic dualism that separates the physical and the spiritual and I think that God is present everywhere, how can there exist "thin places"? Would not all places and all times be equally as conducive to spiritual experiences? That is what I've always been taught - one can pray whenever and wherever. Pray in the car, pray while you run. One can even apparently find God in a state of the art, aesthetically empty, contemporary church. God truly is everywhere. But even with that theologically concept firmly in my mind, I still see evidence of "thin places."
Certain circumstances and specific places are known to help people connect with God. Is it all just psychological, and if so what does it really matter? If escaping from the ordinary to a special place helps one put aside the clutter in one's mind that crowds out God, then yes, God is more accessible in that place. If a person feels more at home - more at peace- in a certain physical location, then yes, they will mostly likely be able to experience God there. So is it just the results of our collective unconscious or consensual imagination that have us all naming the same places as functional "thin places" for us all? Is that how sacred places are formed?
I know I'm just thinking aloud here. And that these are only lighthearted musings in my attempts to reconcile my theology with my romanticism. But there is too much truth in both approaches for this to be a clear either/or. I see this in the resurgence of contemplative practices and experiential worship practiced in many emerging churches. The answers are more complex than many of us protestants were taught to believe. So I will continue to ponder and occasionally think aloud.
Labels: Emerging Church, Reflections, Theology, Worship