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Carnett: 'Just pray' is a good credo; still I yearn for holy places

March 03, 2014|By Jim Carnett

Sacred spaces.

Do they exist on planet Earth?

Are there spaces — natural or man-made — that bring us closer to the divine than, say, a supermarket checkout counter or a bus station washroom? Do spiritual vortexes exist where the holy can intersect with the ordinary and be deeply quaffed?

I don't know the answers to those questions and, frankly, I'm not losing sleep over them.

But I must say that as my life advances along its largely mundane and occasionally perilous track, this evangelical believer is frequently stirred by the sacred. We evangelicals may be quick to raise our hands in worship in our modern meeting houses, but we're sometimes hesitant to kneel at a centuries-old altar for confession and reconciliation.

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Jesus often went to remote locations to pray. My favorite prayer spots over the years have included isolated Central and Northern California beaches; soaring California redwood groves; and glacier-strewn Alaskan inlets and bays.

But one rarely has access to such inspirational natural sanctuaries.

I belong to a branch of Christianity that professes the belief that place and circumstance are irrelevant when you pray. The important thing is that you pray.

According to beliefs I subscribe to, one can offer prayers on a beach, while standing in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles, or riding Colossus at Six Flags Magic Mountain. God is available to all from all fathomable locations at all times. Wherever you have the urge to pray is the perfect moment to seek God.

I don't need sacred space or rituals. And yet…

My church meets in what might be described as a spacious building that resembles a concert hall — or gymnasium. It seats thousands. I've also attended highly effective churches that met in movie theaters, converted industrial buildings and school cafeterias.

No incense. No altars. No stained glass. No problem!

But are those boxy, vanilla houses of worship slightly — or even remotely — holy? Not by any criteria I can determine. Are they an anathema? Not that, either. Speaking as a 21st century evangelical, I maintain that it's the person we worship that's important, not the setting.

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