By now most of you know that worship is my passion. Sacred Space is intricately wrapped up in that. Some days I think that if I could create a dream job for myself, I would be a "Sacred Space Consultant" and travel around the world teaching churches how to create Sacred Space. (Then I get to the tail end of the event and it takes me a week to recover and I start to rethink that...) :)
Sacred Space is an out-of-the-box, multi-station, interactive worship event. (Or so I've heard it described.) Really, it's just what it sounds like - sacred, and spacial. Spacial both in terms of physical space, and in terms of creating space in our hearts for God to speak - or rather, to listen to what He is speaking. This was my 5th event, and was by far the one for which I've been most excited. What made it different is that this time, I had an entire team of people who were committed, invested, and passionate about making it happen - usually it's just me and one or two other people - so we were able to do more, and it was far more creative than anything I could have come up with on my own. Watching people discover their creativity and put it into action was really cool - both in the preparation for the event and during the actual service. But here, let me walk you through the night, and you'll see what I mean. :)
As you walked up to the church, there were carolers singing just outside the church doors to greet you with a bit of Christmas cheer. People milled about the lobby talking, swiping cookies from the kitchen, catching up, and listening to Christmas music. At 7:00pm, the song we play as our 20something's weekly cue to find a seat came on, and we all piled into the sanctuary - to find there were very few chairs. There were some towards the front grouped in coffee-house style around tables decorated with vases full of pinecones and ribbons, and others set up around larger tables in the back that were piled high with craft supplies. We sat where we could, and some stood. Our pastor welcomed us, challenged us to come like Martha's sister Mary and sit at Christ's feet for awhile, and the band kicked us off into a short set of Christmas songs and praise choruses. We heard the Christmas story straight from Luke 2, and then our other teaching pastor explained the goal of the night, and turned us loose to worship as we wished/felt led, encouraging us to explore avenues of worship that might not feel the most natural to us, and to discover how God might speak to us as we focused on re-discovering the wonder of Christ's coming.
Most people (not surprisingly) made a beeline for the station we called "Life Together: Community as Worship." Coffee, cocoa, and Christmas cookies, and the chance to catch up with old friends (as several of our college students are beginning to come home for the holidays).
Others took off for a number of other stations. I wish you could have seen it. Words will never do it justice - but here are some brief descriptions...
In the main sanctuary, the Christmas story was scrolling across the screens, and there were four stations set up. In the front to the left was a four foot high, four foot long wall built and painted by a couple of guys in our community that we call our wailing wall - people can come and write out their hearts' cries to the Lord and nail them to the wall. We also post a brief history of the real wall in Jerusalem, so that people will know the significance of the tradition in which they are, in their own way, participating.
To the right was a table piled high with packages, topped by a box labeled "The Gift Box." Gift tags were available on which you could write your gift to God (time, resources, your heart...) and drop it in the box. Next to the table was a Christmas tree hung with dozens of crosses made of nails and wire, bearing gift tags that read "To: you; From: Jesus - John 3:16" - and worshipers were invited to take one home with them in remembrance of the night, and of the ultimate Gift.
In the back were 3 tables in a station called the Creative Corner. Watercolor paints, crayons and paper, playdough, and a basket full of scrolls and pens for poetry were available for anyone who wished to paint, shape or write their praise. Some of the paintings our community turned out are simply amazing.
There were also 2 tables for a station called "The Invitation" - piles of card-making and letter-writing supplies were available for those who wished to reflect on the invitational aspect of God's character and to model it by writing letters/notes to encourage people.
Down the main hallway just off the lobby are all our classrooms, and there were stations set up in each of those rooms as well. The first room on the right was our Reflection Room. Journals and Bibles were available on a shelf, and there were piles of blankets and pillows and comfy couches, in a room lit by candles and white Christmas lights, made brighter by the occasional mirrors that reflected the lights in front of them. I walked by at one point, and three or four people were curled up under blankets, reading and journaling, and it looked so warm and cozy and inviting!
The next room on the right was called Away In A Manger: Piecing Together the Mystery of Christ's Coming. One of the girls had found a great puzzle with 20 scenes on it - a few of us worked on it together the week prior to Sacred Space and that was a lot of fun - and then she wrote out a number of biblical prophecies regarding the coming of Christ on the puzzle, and put each "scene" with its verse in a gift bag in a manger full of hay. This room was lit by table lamps and Christmas lights, and it was fun to see people grouped around tables putting sections of the puzzle together - together - and learning both from the experience and from the verses on the puzzle about how God designed this incredible Story.
At the end of the hall is our "theatre" room - and punk rock Christmas music themed what we called "Winter Wonderland." Around the room stood a variety of Christmas lawn ornaments - snowmen, etc. The industrial ceiling was wrapped with lights and hung with paper snowflakes. The floor was covered in shredded paper to simulate snow, and piles of wadded up newspapers served as imitation snowballs. (We'd hoped to do this station outside, but the snow came on Tuesday - so we went for warm and indoors instead.) :) I missed it, but I hear the snowball fights were a ton of fun. :) There was also a table off to the side where you could read Psalm 139 and make a snowflake to represent your uniqueness in the body of Christ.
Our outdoor station was my favorite. Just across from the main entrance to the church is a field that's still mildly lit by the lamps in the parking lot, but dark enough you can see the stars yet, too. Out in the field was a manger and a cross, and the opportunity to go for a walk and reflect on those two symbols of our faith and their significance. At the end of the time alloted for stations, we gathered back together in the sanctuary and moved into a time of worship and communion, but I decided to duck out for a minute to visit that station, since I hadn't been there yet - and I walked out the door to see the cross up on the hill as the band was singing about the healing that comes through the cross, and it was a beautiful, sacred moment.
I'm not sure anything else in the night topped it, tho a close second was when I walked through the sanctuary at one point, and saw a girl sitting alone at the poetry corner, writing away with such a look of sheer joy on her face that it inspired me to worship in my own heart as well.
And this is why I love Sacred Space so much. I will never know all that God did in and through the people who were there - but I know He was at work - and I know that we encountered Him in some pretty amazing and creative ways. I can't think of much that brings me more joy than that. :)