Thursday, October 8, 2009

Where is your altar in the world?

We have 20 people gathering on Wednesday evenings to talk about Barbara Brown Taylor's book, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith.

We talked about a lot of things yesterday evening, and we took the time for silence, too.

I asked a couple of questions, and I pose them to you: Where is your altar in the world? Is there a place -- a specific geographic location -- that is sacred for you? A place where you feel the presence of the Holy like no other place? Where is that for you? Do you have more than one?

We heard many stories, and we heard about many wonderful places -- seashores, islands, and back porches; mountains, rivers, lakes and gardens. There are many holy places in this world, many altars for holy people. Where is yours? I'd love to hear about it.

I have many. The one that is much on my mind lately (probably because of the Ken Burns series on national parks) is a ridge near the May Lake high camp at Yosemite. It takes a couple of hours to reach on foot from the Tioga Road, and you best bring a sleeping bag and tent.

The time to go is at dusk, the time of the alpenglow, when the sun is setting and an orange sheen envelopes the mountains to the east across Tuolumne Meadows, Cathedral Peaks, Mount Dana, Mount Ritter and beyond. The Sierra glisten gold for a few minutes, and you can touch the face of God. I've lost track of how many times I've made the climb to that ridge; I took the photo above on a climb four years ago.

I have another altar in the world, and I can reach it every day: the rocker on our front porch in Charlottesville. God is in the meadow right here, in the trees, with the birds, on the porch, in my hands. God is in this place. It enjoy reading Morning Prayer on the porch in the early morning.

Where is the altar in the world for you?


Janice Dean said...

St. Mary Parish, Waltham, MA. Hearing the carillon bells of St. Thomas Aquinas from the parking lot at lunchtime. Any view of the Blue Ridge from one of the mountains themselves. There are more, and I'm happy to encounter them anywhere!

Anonymous said...

We are going to study this book during the Sunday mornings of Lent - two chapters per Sunday. I appreciated the questions you asked here. Did you perhaps develop any more questions that your group enjoyed discussing in relation to the book? Thank you!
Barbara Danner, Buford, GA

The Rev. James Richardson said...

Dear Barbara,
I start each discussion in silence, and then in prayer. Then I ask a question that comes from the chapter that week. Each chapter suggests an obvious question, and some are fun. Last night's chapter 8 was about vocation, and BBT began the chapter by listing all of the jobs she has held. So I asked "Tell us about the quirkiest or most unusual job you've ever had." The discussion was fun and eventually turned to being faithful to one's vocation. I let the discussion suggest more questions.