Grace to you and peace from the One who is and who was and who is to come (Rev. 1:4).
I offered my service as a reader today to the congregation at Whitehorse United Church, and the above quote was part of the readings. On occasion, I do worship with the local United Church congregation. As these things go, they have a relational aspect: I have been invited to join for the worship service; and Celia has been attending this church for a while now. To read from the scripture is a way for me to give back to the community and their hospitality. It helps me to overcome my fear for public speaking and my tendency not to publicly live out and share the ministry of presence.
I must admit that the space the Whitehorse United Church provides for worship is exceptional in the architectural desert of the Yukon. The sanctuary is simple, inviting, and not overloaded with distractions. I particularly enjoy the indirect light from the rainbow-coloured window glass in the alcove behind the altar. Today was not the best day for appreciating the light effects because the skies produced a diffuse light. But on a day with some sunshine, these windows create the warmest glow of light throughout the visible spectrum. A real treasure and for me an expression of the above quote from the Revelation to John.
I have never required a particular place to experience God, the divine: most often this happens to me when I am out in the bush, close to the creation and at the same time away from the distractions of civilizations. However, I do recognize places that facilitate those encounters. And they don’t have to be of a particular religious orientation. I have worshipped in churches and temples, shrines and mosques, on mountaintops and in roadside chapels. In the end, there is only one divine for all of humanity – and to me the particular form of worship does not really matter as long as it is genuine and a believable part of a person’s life.
Here is an other image of a place of worship that I am impressed by: Every time I am able to walk in a West Coast grove of cedars, hemlocks, and sequoias I see the resemblance to a Gothic cathedral. And there are these breaks in the canopy that allow some rays of sunlight to create the same special effect as the windows in the relative darkness of a church interior.
Many of those edifices also play with the light through the use of stained glass windows. A recent example that impressed me was the St. Stephan’s church in Mainz, Germany. There, the windows, created by Marc Chagall after World War II, are kept in tones of blue, which creates a very special, almost unnatural effect – One that inspired me for deep reflection. No biblical or religious imagery required.
But light can also be an artificial and creative element inside the room for worship. On my last trip to Switzerland, I stopped by the church of the former monastery of the Augustines in downtown Zurich. There, a simple spot light transforms the heaviness of the symbolism of the cross and projects an image of the inviting Christ on the bare walls of the apse. Another creative use of light!
Grace to you and peace from the One who is and who was and who is to come.