by James Woodward
I wonder where your favourite space is in Salisbury? A visitor said to me recently – ‘I love Sarum College – it is a space where I can breathe and relax and think’. We all need space. Some spaces can feel like a home from home.
I wonder which place gives you precious space? A favourite corner in a coffee shop or that walk along the river to Old Sarum? The noise and smells of the market place on a Saturday? The peace of an art gallery or the music coming from a St Thomas’s Church concert? It might be your living room or the library or, the wonder of the space of our Cathedral.
Place is a space which provides continuity and identity across generations. Place is space in which important words have been spoken which have established identity, defined vocation and envisioned destiny. Place is space in which vows have been exchanged, promises have been made, and demands have been issued. Place can indeed be a protest. It is a declaration that our humanness cannot be found in escape, detachment, absence of commitment, and undefined freedom.
As we continue to live with the human and economic challenges of Covid, churches offer space to connect with our lives. We can be blessed by their craftsmanship and durability. After experiencing Sarum Lights in our Cathedral I overheard someone say, ‘I can feel the goodness of this place’. The light, and movement and material particularity are, perhaps a reminder of the immanent goodness of all material things. In buildings we can glimpse something beyond the ordinary.
These spaces are a blessing for us and the community. We need them. Christians have always set aside space dedicated to God so that our lives, fragile and testing as they might be, can be enriched and changed and blessed. In these spaces we pray, worship and learn about the truth and wisdom of God.
The Christmas season has started with its lights sparkle. Our shops invite us in. We make our plans and lists! There is much to look forward to. It is busy. Perhaps you might want to pause and think about what will help you mark this season and its meaning? Find a space to stop for a few moments and listen. Perhaps also to pray for peace, for those you are worried about, for a safer and more secure world.
Sacred places offer us the gift of an alternative way of experiencing time and space. The walls of these places are soaked in the stories, prayers and songs of a community over generations. They are powerful and transformative.
Find that space. It is waiting for you.
The Revd Canon Professor James Woodward is Principal of Sarum College.