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Shaping Sacred Spaces

November 13, 2014
Spaces panelists: Andy Greenhow, Warren Cooper, Larissa Kwong Abazia, and Bruce Reyes-Chow

On September 20, 2014, friends of the Presbyterian Historical Society gathered at Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church for a special event, In the Midst of Them: Shaping Sacred Spaces. The event explored how churches and church leaders define and create sacred spaces within different communities.

The gathering featured a unique worship service with music by the Old Pine Sacred Jazz Ensemble, led by Warren Cooper. After a welcome message from Old Pine’s pastor, the Rev. Jason Ferris, the ensemble led guests in traditional hymns and spirituals with jazz accompaniment. Following a reading of scripture by Ferris, the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, Moderator of the 218th General Assembly, spoke on the subject of creating sacred spaces.

Using videos and slides, Reyes-Chow offered his ideas on what innovative worship spaces are and how churches and communities can foster them. “Creating sacred spaces is about figuring out how to manifest the belief that Jesus is important,” he said, then showed a video of a poem by Taylor Mali about speaking with conviction. Reyes-Chow advised church leaders to be confident enough to give power away in the aim of “creat[ing] spaces for worship to emerge from the community.” He concluded his address by defining sacred spaces as “where we encounter the divine, however we may do that,” adding that “you create… sacred spaces in which god and humanity meet.”

Click below to view the full worship service and guest address.

After the service, Reyes-Chow moderated an interactive question-and-answer panel discussion involving Warren Cooper; the Rev. Larissa Kwong Abazia, current Vice Moderator of the General Assembly; and the Rev. Andy Greenhow, Minister of Stewardship, Congregational Partnership, and Belonging at Broad Street Ministry. The panelists discussed how church environments, congregational diversity, and technological change can influence worship communities today. Kwong Abazia talked about ways her culturally diverse congregation in Queens, NY, yearns for testimonies and personal stories, emphasizing her belief that “stories are powerful.” Greenhow challenged assumptions about the ways ministries should define themselves, explaining that, “If you think the opposite of sacred is profane or secular, I don’t think I can agree with you…. I think the opposite of sacred is shallow.” Cooper reminisced about his many experiences at Presbyterian churches in Philadelphia, not only at Old Pine, but at Berean Presbyterian Church, where his father, the Rev. J. Jerome Cooper, once served as senior pastor.

Click below to view the full panel discussion.

The afternoon concluded next door at the Presbyterian Historical Society, where guests enjoyed refreshments and the opportunity to speak with staff about our current exhibit, Sacred Spaces: Building Communities of Faith. Thanks to everyone--guests, panelists, members of the Sacred Jazz Ensemble, and the leadership of Old Pine Church--for creating such an informative and enjoyable event.