Some people think that you can only worship in a sacred space – a consecrated building, for example.
Some people think that nowhere is sacred – that you can worship anywhere (or that worship doesn’t work and you can’t really do it anywhere at all).
I’ve heard it argued that the concept of sacred space doesn’t help us protect the environment. If we focus on saving the bits we call ‘special’, we’ll miss out lots of other important parts.
I think everywhere is sacred.
There are some spiritual practices which involved being thankful for, or accepting of, everything around you, even when it might be a problem. If you can get caught out without an umbrella, and say, “Thank heavens for rain”, or feel pain and still say, “I accept my body fully as it is”, that’s amazingly powerful. (Note: I said it was powerful, and I called it a practice. I didn’t say it was easy, or that I manage to do it.)
Everywhere is sacred.
Forests are sacred.
Gardens are sacred.
Cracks in the pavement with dandelions growing in them are sacred.
Houses are sacred.
Community centres are sacred.
Church halls are sacred.
Mosques, churches, synagogues, temples, and all places built for worship are sacred.
Recycling points are sacred.
Car parks are sacred.
Landfills are sacred.
And by the time I’ve typed all that, the word ‘sacred’ no longer looks like a word at all. I don’t know what it means anymore – but this is what it means to me now: an object or place which should be valued for its inherent nature, taking into account its function, its place in the life of the community of all beings, and treated with respect.
For example: I wish we didn’t need so many landfills, but they are important to the life of the community in which I find myself. Like death, they tend to be hidden and taboo; like death, we might learn a lot from looking them in the eye. I try to treat my local landfill with respect, sending her only what really needs to go to her.
For example: I don’t live near a forest anymore, but I visit and support and love the woodlands I can reach. (Some are best supported if I stay away; rainforests must be beautiful and amazing, but flying to see one is counterproductive.) I find it easy to call a forest sacred, and hard to call a building sacred, and very hard to call a rubbish tip sacred, and yet it seems to me that this is what we need to do.