Turning Spaces into Places

This past Sunday was my Pastor Installation Service. Your reception, energy, support, prayers, love, and hopefulness filled the sanctuary, and I will never forget the joy I felt or the hope that was cast for our future together! It was both exciting and humbling to be the recipient of such a day. I hope you know I consider it an honor to be your pastor.     

I am trying (unnecessarily) to put words to how special of a day it was, and the best I can do for now is say the church transformed from a “space” to a “place”  for me. 

Have you ever thought about the difference between “places” and “spaces”?  A place (as I define it) is location with determined boundaries.  A space is the opposite; it is location with undetermined boundaries.

Examples may help here.

Take sanctuaries.  Their boundaries are determined with brick and mortar, walls and ceilings.  They’re laced with memories, rituals, rites of passage, storylines, and moments of sadness, joy, and celebration.  They’re marked with an energy that cannot be erased.  

The Celts call this a “thin place.”  They believe that the veil between heaven and earth gets so “thin” in some places that heaven can actually be felt on earth.  Mountaintops, vacation spots, front porch swings, bedrooms, ball fields, and breakfast nooks are good examples of “places.”

Spaces, on the other hand, are void of content, memory, and energy.  They’re filled with emptiness (if that’s even possible), but they are also free to be engaged – open for meaning and substance. 

Our future together is void of memory, for it is unscripted and unknown. We have many decisions to make and many experiences left to share (What will our children’s ministry look like? What do we do with the Anderson House we just purchased? What is our next big mission emphasis? What does spiritual formation look like for young adults?) But we, thanks to the gift of the Holy Spirit, carry the hope needed to step into this new future and turn our space into a place. 

I think this is what we as humans ultimately want to do – turn spaces into places.  There’s a reason why the Dixie Chicks’ song “Wide Open Spaces” went to #1 on the Billboards in 1998.  Its lyrics, “Wide open spaces / room to make big mistakes” captured the essence of how humans desire to seek after and fill spaces with meaning and memory.The Dixie Chicks are encouraging us to seek meaning, make mistakes, chase after hope, and discover the thin veil where heaven touches earth.

And this is my hope for us at First Baptist. We must be a conduit for this kind of meaning-making, for we help people experience the sacred in the midst of the mundane. So may our future step into unknown spaces and turn them into incredibly rich and meaningful places! 

Pastor Barrett