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Finding sacred spaces of hope

Sacred space with various items

Members of a growing Michigan Conference Contemplative Cohort invite you to spend Fridays in Advent exploring a form of contemplative prayer. This week, Lisa Batten encourages us to create sacred spaces and rest in the presence of God through centering prayer.

Young Adult Initiatives Coordinator, Michigan Conference

“When they said, ‘Let’s go to the house of God,’ my heart leaped for joy. And now we’re here . . .” (Psalm 122:1-2a, The Message).

“God said, ‘Don’t come any closer. Remove your sandals from your feet. You’re standing on holy ground’” (Exodus 3:5, The Message).

In 2016, I was gifted with a retreat to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, located off the northeast coast of England. During the day, the island is filled with day-trippers, families, and bird-watchers. Residents and visitors watch the tidal times closely. No one wants to be caught in their car or hiking at high tide when the cold ocean waters envelop the narrow road connecting the island to the mainland with the curious seals looking on. In the evening, the residents and those on retreat settle into the quietness and darkness that is both welcome and unsettling.

Whether it’s because of its separation from the mainland, because the ancient Celtic people—my ancestors—inhabited Lindisfarne, or because the island is sacred to those practicing Celtic Christianity, the land feels holy. For thousands of years, many prayers and petitions have been offered on the island, and it feels like a thin place where the veil between this world and the otherworld is porous.

In the last two years, during a global pandemic, I realized my need to claim sacred space in the very place I was working and living—my home. I set up a sacred space in my home office, on a windowsill, with shells from Lindisfarne, a book of prayers from a friend, a vase to hold the season’s cuttings, a broken shell from a Michigan beach, an image to remind me of hope, and a candle for light. This sacred space gives me pause, allowing me to rest for a moment in the presence of the Holy One. The sacred space invites me simply to be, without an agenda, a to-do list, or my ideas for what I need from God. I am assured of the Holy One breaking into a world that often feels chaotic and out of control.

This Advent season, several members of a growing Michigan Conference Contemplative Cohort will offer a form of prayer each Friday. They will invite us to practice contemplative prayer, which ancient Christians developed as a way to come away and be in God’s presence.

For this first week of Advent, we are invited to practice setting up a sacred space. This may include treasured Christmas decorations, an Advent wreath, or simple items that will give you pause in the presence of the One who calls us beloved. As we pause in this sacred space, we are invited to hold the word “hope” in our mind, heart, and spirit. Each time we are distracted by the many people and situations in our lives, we can return to the sacred word “hope.”

This form of prayer is called centering prayer and is offered to us for the simple purpose of resting in the presence of the Holy One. As we practice centering prayer, we may not have any big ideas or revelations because that’s not the purpose. The purpose of centering prayer is to rest in our relationship with God so that we can go about our life with the assurance of hope, joy, peace, and love. As we center ourselves on what is holy, we can become aware of the sacred and thin places wherever we live and work.

My prayer for you this Advent season is for a moment of rest in the presence of the One who calls you beloved, and in that, may you have hope.

For more information on joining the Michigan Conference Contemplative Cohort, email Lisa Batten at [email protected].

For information on upcoming 2023 Contemplative Retreats the Michigan Conference offers, click the links below.

February 16-18, 2023
Wesley Woods Camp and Retreat Center
Learn more and register by clicking this secure link.

October 16-18, 2023
Lake Huron Retreat Center
Learn more and register by clicking this secure link.

Last Updated on January 31, 2024

The Michigan Conference