Making ancient churches work in modern times
Context: I have walked more than 2,500 km through Spain and France. Given the Christian history of these countries I have naturally visited many cathedrals, churches and chapels.
While in Europe you would be hard pressed to escape churches. And well, why would you? They are pretty beautiful to visit.
If a town is big enough you might even find a cathedral (mostly magnificent) or if the village is small you might have to content yourself with a chapel. But some kind of Christian worship place can usually be found.
Many people seem to be visiting churches for their architectural beauty. I can’t blame anyone for that but it still is a petpeeve of mine. In my mind, churches are designed for worship, introspection, prayer and reflection.
But truth be told, I find it a bit challenging myself to find inner peace and a landing in my own heart in a church. Surely, there is serenity but something is missing.
It got very clear to me what was missing when I stepped foot into a rather unassuming church in a small village named Hornantas, in Spain.
As soon as I stepped into the building, I wanted to drop my backpack, I felt so welcomed.
Instead of the usually rows of seats behind an altar, which feels like a masculine approach to worship, a few of the benches toward the back had been removed. They were replaced by a small contemplation area.
There was a small bench, as well as sitting cushions and meditation seats to accommodate all kinds of body positions someone might be used to praying in. Being used to meditating sitting on the floor this felt most welcoming to me.
Bibles in many different languages were available: in
Spanish , English, German, Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese and so many more.
There was a poster with pictures of 24 inspirational people; some of them well known like Mother Theresa and Gandhi. Others less well known, but upon further research no less inspiring.
There was warm and cold tea along with some cookies available in case one wanted to remain and enjoy a bit longer.
Then there was the opportunity to light a candle for a loved one, world peace…. or maybe for yourself.
You could draw inspirational quotes in six different languages …and on and on it went.
As I was sitting quietly not wanting to leave, spiritual music soothed my ears and soul. A learner later that the group‘s name was Taizé. I highly recommend you check them out. Listening to them is my new favorite obsession.
I wished all churches were so welcoming, and created so much unity and harmony. The way the space was arranged and the thoughtful offerings made a whole lot of difference. The space felt inclusive and heartwarming. A few tears trickled down my face I was so touched.
Inquiry: What else can I do in my life to create an even more heartwarming and welcoming space in my home?