Sacred Spaces


I can’t believe I haven’t blogged in over a month…it’s been a little insane with the annual DR mission trip and then VBS the last week of July, AND my parents coming in for a week-long visit that same week. I’m exhausted…I’ll offer some reflections about the DR trip and VBS later…

Now, we’re on study leave and vacation (about 2 weeks) and currently at Chautauqua – a lovely, but sort of strange and magical place that has been described by folks around here as “utopia,” “summer camp for adults,” and “home away from home.” There are cultural events all week long centered around a theme – everything ranging from religious lectures by celebrity preachers/scholars to musical offerings by symphonies, quartets, and choirs, as well as a chance to do some lawn bowling and kayaking. A- and I are staying at the Presbyterian House as chaplains, which is an honor that is difficult to come by, so we feel it is a real treat.

The theme is “Sacred Spaces,” and it is definitely resonating with me. I’m reading Annie Dillard for the first time, too, her “Pilgrim in Tinker Creek,”, which fits the time and space here, and blown away by her way with such small moments, but ones that hold immense cosmic realities…

I come to this island every month of the year. I walked around it, stopping and staring, or I straddle the sycamore log over the creek, curling my legs out of the water in winter, trying to read. Today I sit on dry grass at the end of the island by the slower side of the creek. I’m drawn to this spot. I come to it as to an oracle; I return to it as a man years later will seek out the battlefield where he lost a leg or an arm. (7)

Obviously, this place is so sacred – an oracle – to many of the folks who have come 5 years, 10 years, or 60 years, and some identify themselves as “3rd generation” because their parents and grandparents have come faithfully over the years. One evening at dinner all the 50-60 guests at the Presby House were invited to stand up and introduce themselves, as well as share one favorite memory of Chautauqua. My favorite was the story shared by a much older woman, I’m not sure how old – maybe late 80s early 90s? – who said, ” I remember coming for the week every summer, and it was a time for my parents to sit in the amphitheater for lectures while I practiced my handstands. Now I was only a little girl at the time but the most memorable was sitting to hear a lecture – and it was Amelia Earhart.”

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Ken Burns shared about his work with telling the stories (histories/biographies) of spaces, and how the most sacred of them call us to be attentive, open, and most importantly…search. So much more, but I couldn’t get everything down. More later…

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