Aug. 23, 2006
August 23, 2006
RELIGION IN IRAN
As we all follow breaking news about Iran's response to the U.N. demand for it to give up any nuclear weapons program, I thought you might find it helpful to read the Country Studies section of the Library of Congress on Iran and Islam. Most people who know Iran describe its people as predominantly pro-Western, though its government has been dominated by radical clerics in a divided governance system in which the clerics in effect exercise authority over elected officials. And don't forget that Iran is not an Arab nation. For a historical view of Iran's encounter with Islam, written by someone at the University of Minnesota in the mid-1990s, click here.
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TOURING SACRED SPACE
One of the things my church is trying to do is to create small groups of people focused on a variety of topics. It's a way, in a large congregation (we have about 1,000 members), to help people get to know one another and to create a tighter sense of community.
As part of that effort, I volunteered to lead such a group on a monthly tour of sacred spaces in the Kansas City area. The first such tour happened this past Sunday, and we had 40-some folks join in after a luncheon together at our church.
In addition to the church's broader goals, my goal in this series of visits to other congregations is to help people understand the diversity of faith commitments others in our area make and how those commitments play themselves out in a rich variety of structures that help to give our metropolitan area an architectural and faith richness it would not otherwise have.
So on Sunday we visited three congregations -- one Jewish, one Catholic and one Protestant.
Our first stop was at the New Reform Temple, where Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn (above right) showed visitors one of the three Torahs kept in the ark in the synagogue. The NRT is housed in a former telephone exchange building.
Next we visited Visitation Catholic Parish, which two years ago completed a major redesign that included a beautiful small chapel (left) created by Santa Fe artist and santero Ramon Jose Lopez, as well as a much larger sanctuary.
Finally we had a tour of Community Christian Church, a Disciples of Christ congregation (smaller picture on right below). This building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, though he wasn't happy with some of the changes the congregation made in his plans.
Over the years I have found that I appreciate more fully the worship space in my own church when I see it in comparison with others and as part of a larger context of faith communities.
On our next tour, we plan to visit a Buddhist center, a Catholic cathedral and an Anglo-Catholic Episcopal church.
What sacred space, beyond your own, if any, speaks to you?
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.
Congratulations, Bill, on organizing the visits to sacred spaces. What a wonderful thing to do.
For many years, I've ascribed to the notion of a sacred space created in one's home. I first visited the idea when trying to help one of my adopted children deal with his background of abuse. When things got noisy or crowded in the house, I would see him retreat to a corner and cover his head with his arms.
Even though he had his own room, we hit on the idea of emptying out a walk-in closet, added ventilation and light, and created a dimly lit "Meditation room". He selected a couple of prayers to decorate and put on the walls. We put some happy, but quiet, books, toys, and symbols around the child-sized comfy chair and discussed ways to call on God when he was there. No one was allowed to invade the sanctity of his little room and he used it as a retreat all the way into his teen years.
My own space, in the last few years, has been a little garden grotto created for the purpose of meditation and renewal.
Next project? A little Zen garden. I just got books on building one but would love to hear from anyone who has been through the process.
Posted by: Patricia | August 23, 2006 at 08:38 AM
Here are a few churches that I have enjoyed seeing and/or worshiping at:
1) Frauenkirche – Dresden, Germany (not Munich)
pictures are available here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stip/sets/1041316/
2) (The New) Catholic Basilica - St. Louis, MO (yes they have two)
3) National Cathedral - Washington D.C.
4) La St. Chappell - Paris, France (not Paris, MO)
5) Bath Abbey – Bath Spa, England
6) Lutheran Church of the Redeemer – Jerusalem, Israel
7) Our Savior Lutheran Church - Houston, Texas
pictures are available here: http://www.osl.cc/ff/index.html
8) Church of San Giorgio - Portofino, Italy
9) St. Peter’s Catholic Church - Harper’s Ferry, WV
10) Czech Presbyterian Church - Wahoo, Nebraska
11) Lutheran Church of the Reformation – Washington D.C.
12) In the Kansas City metro area, I like Holy Cross Lutheran Church – Kansas City, North. They have a beautiful sanctuary and even won some architectural awards for it in the 1950’s when it was built.
13) The most stunning modern worship space I think I have been in would have to be the Chapel of the Resurrection on Valparaiso University’s campus. It seats 3,500 people and I think of it as a modern cathedral. If you are in Northern Indiana sometime stop by. It is jaw dropping.
pictures available here: http://www.valpo.edu/facilities/chapel/index.php
The numbers above do not denote a ranking, they are just used to clearly demark the beginning of a new location; though I do believe the Frauenkirche is my favorite.
Posted by: Michael | August 23, 2006 at 09:19 AM
Michael, those photos of the Frauenkirche are really inspiring! Thanks!
Posted by: Dave Miller | August 23, 2006 at 05:05 PM
A dear friend of mine shared with me a wonderful saying regarding the places where God has dwelled. "God's presence was on the mountain with Moses, in the arc through the desert, in the Holy of Holies in the Temple, and now He wants to take up residence in your heart."
This day's blog brought to mind an old story - "My Heart, Christ's Home" by Robert Boyd Munger. A space that doesn't deserve to be sacred because of all the dirt and filth we allow to pile up is the very place where Christ wants to be the most. He doesn't just want to be a casual visitor, he wants the title, the deed to our hearts, our lives. Mr. Munger's work can be read at the following: http://www.geocities.com/heartland/flats/4048/heart.html
God's blessings to you all.
Posted by: Grace | August 23, 2006 at 09:43 PM