Musings from the Manse

Dear Friends,

Rev Helen Higgin-Botham
Rev Helen Higgin-Botham

What is the Spirituality of a building?

How do we create a Worshipful setting?

These were just two of the questions that we were asked to consider at the recent Minister’s Winter School in Windermere. Our theme leaders, Stephen Collinson, Linda Rayner and Liz Mullen, helped us to explore and examine the elements we felt were needed in order to create space for worship and personal spirituality.

However, the first thing we needed to do was to determine just what we meant by Spirituality – something which I spent many hours mulling over when I was at Theological College.

It can mean – relating to, consisting of, or having the nature of spirit; but from a religious point of view, you could say that our spirituality is how we relate to God or how we create ‘sacred space’ – in essence, the foundation of our relationship with God.

One of the first things we considered was how church buildings either helped or hindered the creation of a ‘worshipful setting’. Through pictures, we saw how lighting, colour, style, and furniture affected the ability to feel connected with God – and then through our own particular church setting, and some of those of around Windermere and Ambleside, to assess what was helpful and what was unhelpful when we came together in worship.

Some of the issues that arose were; was the building too warm/too cold; was the seating comfortable; was the lighting adequate, and did it create the right ambience; could we hear the Minister/Worship Leader; was the church decor too busy or too plain; were there any distractions, such as untidy areas or too much clutter. These may seem fairly trivial, but in creating a worshipful setting, where we are seeking the peace and presence of God, many factors can either focus or distract our attention.

Two places we visited were St. Mary’s Church in Windermere (Anglican) and the Parish Rooms in Ambleside – both of which, in their own way, created very spiritual ‘sacred spaces’.  St. Mary’s had just about come to the end of a long period of refurbishment, which now meant that they’d got a building that not only met all of their needs but also provided them with a God-centred worship space. The Font, Lectern and Communion Table had been spaced out along the central aisle, pointing to the very ‘backbone’ of their spirituality, whilst discrete lighting helped to create ambience whilst still being practical.

The Methodist Congregation in Ambleside, worshipping in the Parish Rooms, had a worship space which was simplistic in nature, yet provided everyone with a setting in which they could not fail to worship God. This semi-circular room, with its wall of glass, looked out onto the grandeur of the hills rising above Ambleside – so there was really no need for anything else other than the simplest of church furniture. When we walked into the room, all we could say was ‘Wow!’

So, when you are next sat in church, or having a quiet ‘prayer time’ at home, think about what you feel is needed to create a worshipful setting – what will enhance your ability to be comfortable in a spiritual way. Look around at what there is now and whether it helps you or hinders you to feel connected with God; and as we make our way through this period of Lent, may you discover afresh your own spirituality through our focus on Prayer.

Yours in Christ,

Helen

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