Last Sunday’s opening hymn, “Where is Our Holy Church?,” reminded me of a discussion I had recently with some clergy colleagues here in Beaufort. I’ve told you about our Heretics group, and our monthly meetings. Those meetings are important for all of us, and our conversation on any given day could be serious or silly.
The last time we met we were talking about some serious matters. All of us are dealing with the aftermath of the COVID pandemic. My Episcopalian colleagues are closely following the continuing lawsuit over the property of congregations that chose to split from the Episcopal Church in order to align with a much more conservative Anglican body, a body that does not allow full participation of women or LGBT+ people as either clergy or generally in the life of the church. This discussion led to musing on what space(s) we consider sacred, and what makes a space sacred.
For me, the answer is that a space is made sacred by its history, and human intention. About a decade ago, Tom was regularly traveling to Europe for business. Once I went along to France. We stayed an extra day to tour the famous Chartres Cathedral with its 13th Century labyrinth laid in stone in the nave. For hundreds of years pilgrims have walked the labyrinth, symbolically making pilgrimage. Over the centuries, the stones have become worn. The sense of unknown numbers of people shuffling along the inlaid path is palpable. All those people, all that intention, have rendered the space sacred.
Similarly, many Unitarian Universalists consider The Mountain Retreat and Learning Center, atop Little Scaly Mountain in North Carolina, a sacred space. Our holy places are where we make them, by human words and deeds.
Last week Liz Key and I had the pleasure of having dinner with the Board of the UU Living Legacy Project. Some of you have heard of this group, others have actually been “on the bus” for one of their pilgrimages to Civil Rights Movement sites. The Board met at the Penn Center – one of our local sacred places – for a retreat, the purpose of which was to figure out when they could begin offering the pilgrimages again. In conversation with LLP co-founder, Rev. Gordon Gibson, he expressed a desire to add an Eastern pilgrimage route to their roster to include the Penn Center.
If and when that happens, I know this Fellowship will be ready to welcome those who come to learn about the Unitarian connection to this beautiful, sacred place, made holy by its history and all the people who taught, learned, and worked there for justice.
Rev. Lori Hlaban