Sacred spaces in the community

The Archbishop of Wales is encouraging churches to see the sacred in less obvious places as they engage in their communities.

Dr Barry Morgan is launching the Seven Sacred Spaces project at the National Assembly for Wales on Saturday.

The project identifies places like libraries, cafes, family breakfast clubs and even orchestras as examples of sacred spaces through which churches can reach into their communities.

The Seven Sacred Spaces project was inspired by a study into monastic life which concluded that there were seven things essential for any Christian community to flourish.  

The areas identified are:

  • Cell, a quiet place for pray or thinking, (perhaps in our home)
  • Chapel, a place to worship with others (this could be in a church or a parish coffee shop where a church service is held)
  • Chapter, a place where we meet and make decisions (such as the Assembly)
  • Cloister, a place of encounter where we meet others (a community shop or teenage cafe)
  • Garden, a place of labour and productivity (a community garden)
  • Library, a place of knowledge and study (a living faith group)
  • Refectory, a place to share and eat together (a family breakfast club)

Dr Morgan said, "I would like you to get involved in Seven Sacred Spaces because I believe it will enable us, both as parishes and diocese, to show that the church is engaged and working with others, and is relevant to the communities in which we live, and has something to offer today's society."

At the heart of the project is the understanding of Christians as part of a wider community where many life-enhancing elements are already in place.

"Most of us can usually point to failures and defects in our communities but we do not always appreciate the good things that occur," he said.

"Many of you will have your own examples of what inspires you from a church and community perspective, and you may have experienced instances of the church and community working in partnership already.

"Seven Sacred Spaces, of course, is a process and not an event and is something that we will need to visit again and again if it is to be something that will truly help us."

One example of a sacred space featured in the companion DVD is The Making Music Changing Lives project, featuring the Ely orchestra.  

It was launched by former professional musician and Ely vicar the Reverend Jan Gould, who was inspired to set up the project after encountering something similar in South America.  In the three years since its launch, it has grown from meeting one night a week to three.

The Reverend Canon Richard Lowndes, lead officer for the diocese on Seven Sacred Spaces, said the Ely orchestra was the perfect example of the church using the gifts of the people within it to reach out and connect with the community in different ways.  

"Seven Sacred Spaces is about the church looking outwards rather than inwards," he said.

"Quite simply it translates the spaces used to form the ideal religious community into our own and any community setting.

"The cell and the chapel are places where we might prepare ourselves to go out into the community and then return to and the rest are all places where we go to while out in the community."

Another successful project highlighted on the DVD is the St Brides Major community library which was set up and run by volunteers after the mobile library service to the area was halted.

Other examples of sacred spaces include:

  • The Feel Good Factory (All Saints Church) at Penrhiwceiber , Mountain Ash, where a church building was redeveloped for shared use with the community and includes an altar on wheelsThe Toast family breakfast club at All Saints Church in Penarth
  • A wedding stall set up at a wedding fayre by a group of clergy and lay people from the Bridgend deanery
  • St Peter's Community Garden, Fairwater, Cardiff, developed by volunteers and young offenders
  • The Gigabites e-cafe in Bargoed, which provides space for teenagers

Canon Lowndes continued: "This is not about replicating any of these projects but it's about reflecting and recognising the gifts that we have within our church and how they may be best used to connect more widely in the community."