I am one of those type of folks who is influenced by place: my surroundings can have a very real and powerful impact on my thoughts, my mood, and if I'm in the place for long enough, who I am. Places define me as well: I identify with not just the company I work for, but the actual physical place I work in. I identify myself with our house, because much in it is "me", and I confess that I'm a homebody.
Places are important to me, both in my real life and in my vivid imagination. I yearn for time to be lakeside in a cabin - a specific cabin - as a means to mentally escape. I find comfort in the memories of my parent's homes that I grew up in. The condo I lived in for 12 years and the house we currently have been in for nearly 15 years, are all part of this "place" need that I have to feel comfortable, feel at home, feel enveloped in a sense of familiarity. Nature also provides places for me, that I either return to in memory, in photographs I took there, or if I can, actually GOING there.
For me, too, place helps in worship, and in that form, I am a paradox when it comes to place in worship. I find that worship for me is enhanced by where I am worshipping, and if I don't feel the place I'm in is "right" - and that's a VERY subjective viewpoint - I actually can prevent myself from worshipping. While there are many who find large classic sanctuaries with pipe organs in front to be intimidating, I am the opposite. But I have also felt the need to worship in places that are not made by the hand of man, but by the Hand of God. I have a vivid memory of a grove of aspen trees on the side of a mountain that had a clearing in the middle, and all the branches of the trees bent over to make the arches of the "chapel". I felt - in that place - the presence of God, and fell to my knees in respect of that awesome silence. I have been in places in nature that spoke loudly in their silence of the need for quiet reflection and pensive worship.
I was reminded of this fact earlier this week, when I went with a group from my church to listen to a demonstration of an organ we were thinking of buying. As I walked into the sanctuary - almost a chapel - I felt the intense need to worship. Even with the salesman playing the organ loudly, I could tune that out (no pun intended) and found myself in a deep sense of calm, and a desire to stay, and worship. The light from the large north facing stained-glass window at the back of the church illuminated the sanctuary well, yet allowed for a sense of booth refreshing coolness and inviting warmth. The overhead lights offered little to light the sanctuary, but created an illusion that they were candles. The stained glass window in the chancel was smaller, but allowed in glorious light, bathing the altar with warmth. I felt at home here immediately - it was a place I could have stayed and called "home". I took some Instagram photos of the church, and was surprised when many of my Instagram followers liked this image - even other Instagram users "liked" the image. Perhaps, for them, this place inspired a sense of comfortable worship, and the need to be somewhere that calls to their souls. This was a place I could pray, could sing hymns, could sing sacred choral works - this was, for me, a place of worship.
We all have places we adhere to in our memories, in our souls, and in our very lives. Let us keep these places, treasure them, and reflect upon them.