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Thinking on thin places

Recently David at Emerging in Ludlow ruminated on the significance of “place”:
One of the things Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright said in an address to the emerging church was that we should consider the importance of 'place'. That some places held more significance and were more spiritual than others. The Celtic church used to talk about thin places - that is places where the separation between earth and heaven is thin.
I really like this idea. It reminds me of warm, dark wood carved from a tree grown from a Narnian apple seed.

As David thinks about some of these “thin places” he’s experienced, I began to wonder if there might be different types of these spaces. There’s the corporate thin spots, places of history and story and movement (like a church David mentions). Then there’s the thin spaces where God’s handiwork is evident, like nature.

But could thin places also include pieces of art, like a novel or painting or structure? Or what about moments and groups of moments? Sometimes, my walk with Jesus feels like walking from spotlight to spotlight, moments of clarity and “thinness” with darkness in between. Not that that is how it is in reality—in reality it is always bright, wide, open and green in the Kingdom, but my ability to see or comprehend my surroundings is sometimes limited. There are times when it seems as if I look back and see a thin place as an at-once group of moments collected together—like the process of reading through a book or a collection of encounters with people or a group of revelations God’s graced upon me.

What do you think? What are the thin spaces you’ve encountered?

(Image: from Gustave Doré's illustrations to the Divine Comedy via Wikipedia)

Comments

Lorna said…
It reminds me of warm, dark wood carved from a tree grown from a Narnian apple seed.

I love that thought ... as well as the thin spaces. Some places permeate God ... and it's awesome. I imagine that the temple where Isaiah saw his vision of God was just like that - you could smell and taste God - and yeah he was probably terrified. Holiness makes us aware how dirty we really were - even though we are now wrapped in Jesus' robes of righteousness
susie said…
I love this comment too. I think of a time in Paris, when I felt the presence of God in Notre Dame cathedral. My sister who does not believe was with me. She ended up holding onto a pillar, dissolved in tears. But the other hundreds of people in Notre Dame that day didn't seem to be feeling anything out of the ordinary. Are there thin palces that are thin for everybody all the time?
Right after my father died, I felt the presence of God so strongly that I was sure everyone else in the room did too. I even asked, Do you feel it? My family looked back at me blankly and numbly. But I've heard other people say that often people feel the presence of God when someone dies, that this is a common thin place.
Carmen Andres said…
i've been thinking more about this and wonder if thin places might be less connected to place as to "awareness." not that they aren't connected to place, because place is connected to story, and God's action in life is always a story. but perhaps awareness plays a role, too? just thinking.

thanks, lorna and susie, for your ruminations!
Kievas said…
Thin places for me always seem to be connected to nature, whether it's a specific place (walking in the dog park) or an experience (pulling a drowning rabbit out of a pond and watching him eventually recover). Maybe it's because God leaves his fingerprints all over his creation.
LutheranChik said…
I know two women who facilitate a women's retreat center in northern Michigan, deep in the woods down a rural two-track.

I spent a week there once on a personal retreat; actually, I think I spent more time in "moving moving meditation" hiking the property than I did in a conventional sort of prayer and contemplation. But anyway, I was taking a very early morning walk, while it was still cool and misty, and as my feet found a downward incline into a valley I found myself staring at the largest maple tree I'd ever seen. It was huge; so big that it was almost frightening, in a primal way. The spread of its branches had created a grassy space underneath. I walked up to the tree and tried to get my arms around it; couldn't do it. The morning sun was filtering down from the leaves, through the morning mist, in a magical way; it was like being in the Elven kingdom in the Lord of the Rings books. And then a hawk -- one of those thin, fast woodland hawks -- came whooshing across this little valley, and past the tree, so low that I could actually feel the vibration of its wings. I've never had an experience like that morning before or since.

That, to me, was definitely a "thin" place.
Cecilia said…
I served a church that had an enormous weeping copper beech tree just outside the manse. The branches looke for all the world like a woman's hair, and I used to stand under that tree filled with wonder at the sense of holy presence it evoked.

I suppose one must consider the Temple Mount in Jerusalem a thin place-- the three great monothestic faiths all claim it as a place of great holiness.

Pax, C.