Rector's Blog

Sacred Space

I’ve just come back from a refreshing ten days on the Isle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde.

The wooden church at Sannox, Isle of Arran, Scotland

I have been visiting the island for some 50 years now and I love it.  It is, for me, a very sacred place.  It’s not a famous pilgrimage destination such as Iona or Lindisfarne but it is a place where I have spent time just being with God and the natural beauty of its coastline and hills and glens help me to pray.  It does have its own Holy Island off the coast of the main island where the Celtic hermit St Molios resided in a cave (this island is now owned by a group of Buddhists and continues to receive people seeking retreats).  I was also delighted to return to the small white wooden church at the village of Sannox built during a religious revival in the 18th century.  I have spent time in this church, simply sitting and putting things in God’s hands,  but was saddened to visit some years ago to find that it was falling into disrepair. However, God has revealed a new vision and purpose for the site and I discovered it is being restored and rejuvenated by a group of committed Christians. Its website says, quoting the book of Jeremiah, that Sannox “seeks to answer the call to rediscover the Ancient Paths and find rest for our souls”. You can find out more about the Sannox Christian Centre at

Places of pilgrimage are often referred to as “thin places”,  places where the veil between this world and the next is very thin, where the distance between heaven and Earth seems to collapse.  They are usually places of great beauty, often remote and where Christians have prayed for generations and there is a sense of the very building or landscape being soaked in prayer.  We don’t have to travel very far to find such a place because, whilst not remote,  our church at St Deiniol’s  where people have prayed and worshipped since mediaeval times and probably before that is such a place.  And not only our building.  Many people experience that sense of being close to God in our churchyard as well with its expansive views across to Cheshire and beyond often giving us a sense of perspective when we are overwhelmed.

But of course we don’t even need to walk down to the churchyard to find a sacred space.  Useful and important though such places can be in our faith journeys it is good to remember the prayer of St Catherine of Sienna   “build a cell within your heart and never put a foot outside it”. That might seem a counsel of perfection for those of us running about our daily lives with long to do lists and worries and anxieties. But what St Theresa was saying is that we all have that thin place within us. It is good to get away on retreat or pilgrimage or find time to pray in our churchyard.  We might find it helps to have a room or a corner of our own homes where we pray, where we might light a candle or have an icon or cross  but actually we all have within us the ability to open our hearts to God wherever we are.   I have a friend who used to find a quiet corner of the 8.20 am train from Flixton to work each day and spend the time in prayer.  What helps us find that sacred space where we can feel God’s presence is time.  Wherever we are we need to spend time with God.

This does not mean, however, there is no value in leaving our every day lives behind and going on retreat or pilgrimage, be that a very organised pilgrimage to a famous location or as I have done gone away to somewhere special to me. Going to Arran has done me the world of good! What it does mean is that we don’t leave God behind when we return to our every day lives. The value of spending uninterrupted time with God in a quiet location is that it helps us bring back that sense of closeness and reliance on God back with us into our everyday lives.  

I end with a prayer from St Theresa of Avila

Let nothing disturb you ,Let nothing frighten you, All things are passing away :God never changes. Patience obtains all things Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices.