The Sacredness of Our Places of Worship

The soft hum of an organ, the sunlight streaking through stain glass, the whistling of a tea kettle or the song of a lark from your porch can stir up strong emotions in all of us.  These triggers to our soul are elements of the sacredness of place that surround us everywhere.

A search for sacred places in our communities can begin by locating the designated places of worship.  Perhaps more than any other built landmark, places of worship inherently produce a deep sense of attachment and regard by those who frequent them.  Outsiders can also appreciate the history and architecture while not fully embracing the theology.  The sacredness of our places of worship extends beyond the traditional built environment.

As preservationists, historians, designers and engaged citizens, the goal to preserve historic places of worship in our communities is a match made in heaven (pun fully intended).  Faithful parishioners preserve these buildings over decades and even centuries.  The buildings and grounds become opportunities for the faithful inside and outside of the organized church to partner to preserve meaningful and significant pieces of architectural and cultural history.

So, what’s the common theme to build upon?  Everyone worships.

Whether it’s a local sports team, a literary giant or a musical genius, we all love, adore and exalt something or someone.  We choose to worship in spaces that are sacred, or become sacred, by our own efforts or an external deity.  By pure intensity, frequency, and dedication, these spaces grow into holy sanctuaries simply called CenturyLink, the Key, Showbox, the Intiman, McCaw Hall or Benaroya.

In Queen Anne, we have many traditional places of worship such as Saint Anne’s and Bethany as well as places like the 5 Spot, Kerry Park, Café Fiore, the Queen Anne Library or even our own homes.

Out of respect, or based on previous experiences, some may be hesitant to approach the preservation of sacred spaces that are not their own.  This summer, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s blog 1 provided a series on preserving places of worship.  It included 10 important questions that I think are really important to address when preserving sacred spaces, especially traditional places of worship.  In addition, we would benefit by asking ourselves about the sacredness of the places where we worship before marching onto our neighbor’s holy grounds.  You may not attend an organized gathering on Sunday, but none of us are exempt from worship and experiencing sacred places.

Many places we’re familiar with or in which we spend a great deal of time may not be perceived as sacred, but they very well may be places of worship to you, places that, if threatened, would be of serious concern.

Where do you worship?  What is sacred to you?  Have you ever moved from one home to another, thinking you were so glad to be rid of all the burdens of your previous residence, only to be in tears in a few short hours over missing the stains on your old claw bath tub?

Perhaps you’ve never taken the time to think about this, and the truth is, many members of traditional places of worship may not have either.

By 2013 QAHS Vice President, Aaron Luoma.