I wonder how many of us have a memory of an event completely disassociated with any place. Any time we tell a story we set the stage by describing surroundings geographically, physically, and even with a bit of whimsy...but the place is necessary to the story.
I am reminded of a few instances where I re-visited a place from my childhood. Two prominent moments have happened in the past 12 months.
I am fortunate to work with the Diocese of Texas as an Audio Visual technician for some of their conferences, during the course of which I get to visit many sacred places, some of which have a sacred connection to my own faith walk. On one of these trips that I was working at the church of my childhood. I immediately began to explore all the old nooks and crannies of my childhood, which had changed very little over the past 25 years, when I cam upon the great room. I have memories of this huge room where hundreds of people gathered for meals, pagents, festivities, and fellowship but when I entered it felt as though someone had cut the room to a quarter of its remembered size. Sometimes the memories we make in a place far outweigh the memory of the physical place itself.
The second happened on a similar trip to work at a camp. Camp Allen holds a special space in a great majority of Texas Episcopalians, for me this is the place of some of my earliest memories of spiritual formation. I never attended summer camp, nor midwinter, nor many of the other programs that would stick out as the obvious choices. For me, I remember a family retreat my church held at Camp Allen. I have vivd memories of time with my mom and brother, walking in the woods, finding a dead turtle, and climbing a ladder that is in the corner of the conference center only to be called down and reprimanded. At the time I surely did not realize this was having any impact on my life, but each time I take the turn to head into Camp Allen, the memories of this place, my family, my spiritual growth, and the knowledge that so many others have encountered God in this place flood my mind.(full disclosure - I am seated in the Chapel at Camp Allen as I write this post)
The last "practical" story that comes to mind is from a friend of mine. He shared with me a story of his grandmothers chair. She was a deeply spiritual woman, steadfast in faith, and one of those women who uttered deeply life changing anecdotes off the cuff. In one corner of her house she had a chair, nothing was particularly fancy or special about the chair, it was simply grandmas chair. She would spend hours each day in this chair, praying, talking, napping, and doing what grandmothers do, but when the family came over they all fought day in and day out to sit in her chair even if just for a few moments before a sibling pushed you out. The war for this chair, this place, had nothing to do with the chair itself but the overwhelming peace and love they felt when they sat in the chair. "It was as if you were in my grandmothers lap, and God's arms all at once" he described it.
It was set apart. It was steadfast. It was sacred. It was a place.
What will the setting of the story you and your children tell about your family down the line? Is there a specific place you return to consistently? Is there a place that is consistent in your home where family gathers to be the body of Christ together? Is there a place where generations of your family gather and keep sacred?
If not, maybe now is the time to set that place.