Pilgrimage to Great Britain: “thin spaces”

york4When you take part in an Evensong service at York minster, the sounds are enchanting and haunting at the same time.  The choir starts singing outside the space, but you can hear their voices mingling in the air over your head as they bounce off the vaulted, stone ceiling.  After they process in and then out again, the choir closes the service in the same way. york2 I closed my eyes in wonder and listened.

God was there.

Later in the trip, we arrived at The Craven Heifer  for dinner.  (And yes, that’s the real name of the restaurant and inn!)  After sitting down, Steve, our tour guide, said, “Let’s sing the Doxology for our prayer tonight”.  He hummed a note and everyone joined in with 4 part harmony again filling the air above our heads.  When the last notes faded away, we all sat in silence for a minute.  It was beautiful and holy. ch1

God was there. Iona 3

In Scotland, we visited the island of Iona where a man named Columba started a missionary monastery that evangelized the whole island of Britain in 110 years.  There is a huge standing stone cross in front of the church that has been there for over 1,200 years.  Inside, the dark interior of the church had a holy hush as bright sunlight forced it’s way through the small glass windows.  I stood off to the side reading a psalm and in my imagination, I could hear the voices of men long dead joining in the reading of praise. iona 1

And God was there.

In Celtic theology, these places are called “thin spaces”.  A thin space is a place where the fabric between this world and the eternal is thin making it easy to catch a glimpse of heaven and for souls to make their way there.  Throughout the trip, I was thinking about  this idea and realized that while the island of Iona is a place where God dwells, so is the The Craven Heifer and the minster at York.  A true “thin space”, I believe, is a place where God is manifest in a special way.  But while the Celts believed this was connected with a specific piece of dirt, I think “thin spaces” are fluid based on the spirit of God who is everywhere. Throughout the Bible, there have been “thin spaces”.

The Garden of Eden was a thin space.

The burning bush was a thin space.

Jesus is the ultimate thin space.

The people of God gathering together is a thin space.

Heaven will be our eternal thin space.

So can we experience God on the island of Iona or a church or a pub in England?  Yes, yes and yes.  But that has nothing to do with  location.  It has everything to do with the spirit of God dwelling in us as his people.  So let me ask you a few questions:

Are you a “thin space” for other people? Do they catch a glimpse of the eternal in you? Is it easier for weary souls to make their way to God when you are there? Do people look around in wonder after you have gone…

…because God was there? CH5

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