In towns and countries around the world, many houses of worship —churches, temples, synagogues, mosques — are remaining closed. Many of them have gone virtual, though a few have shut their doors forever.
Whatever the religion, the building was often more important than the spiritual practice. Millions of dollars and thousands of pledge drives were devoted to maintain and enhance them because people needed somewhere to go to find God.
For some, this building became the only worthy place for God to dwell. If we attended weekly worship in the chosen building, we often imagined that we would find comfort, salvation, redemption, and eternal peace.
How sobering then for us to realize that that the very places we thought were most holy have also been hotbeds for spreading disease. And without the building, a physical structure for worship, some of us have felt lost and alone, believing that somehow God is gone and we’re on our own.
Yet, the truth is: God is not found in our buildings only. God is everywhere present, all the time, in the midst of all our comings and goings, in the midst of all that is occurring around us. And if we cannot attend worship in a physical building or we feel unfulfilled in a sea of virtual broadcasts, we can experience God in our lives by:
- Creating a sacred space for prayer, meditation, and contemplation in our own homes. Anything from a comfortable chair to an entire room counts. This is our place to be still and silent, even if only for a few minutes a day.
- Designing an altar of holy objects and inspiring treasures in our sacred space. Items can include: a Star of David, cross, Kwan Yin statue, angels, gongs, crystals, prayer beads, photographs, candles, and incense, among many other items.
- Practicing intentional deep-breathing exercises. Try belly breath – breathing deeply from your diaphragm – or pranic breath – which follows a series of patterns or rhythms. Remember: Because our breath is portable, we can use these exercises anytime: when we’re in the grocery store, driving in the car, or in our home office waiting for the WebEx meeting to begin. Also, these exercises are particularly helpful if we must wear a mask for an extended time because they help us stay grounded in the present moment.
- Communing with nature. Walk barefoot in the grass and feel its texture between our toes. Meditate under a shady tree on a park bench and consider the texture of bark and color of leaves. Hike a mountain trail, focusing on the path’s twists and turns. Kayak a river, watching how the water flows. Swim in the ocean and float on the waves. Practice sky-gazing by viewing stars shining at night or clouds floating by during the day. Watch rain fall and listen to its sounds on the roof, pavement, and window panes.
- Singing favorite hymns and/or chanting mantras, either alone, with family, or with a virtual group. If you were part of a choral, convene the group virtually and take turns leading the songs.
- Gathering with a virtual community of people who share similar interests, such as cooking, gardening, reading, knitting, or sculpting. Because we are creative beings, sharing our creativity with others reminds us of how many different gifts we have to give one another. Whatever the group, ensure that each person has time to share about their current project.
- Enjoy more time with pets, if we have them. Walking the dog, stroking the cat, milking the goats, even feeding the goldfish and filling the bird feeder remind us that we are all God’s creatures, great and small.
As we continue navigating our new way of life, let us remember that God lives and moves and expresses in each of us, 24/7/365, always and in all ways. The more we become aware of God in the midst of everything around us, the more personal God becomes to us, not as some amorphous thing in a building, but as the source and sustenance of our entire life.
Wherever we are, no matter what is occurring, we can affirm: “Wherever I am, God is. And so it is.” And so we allow it to be.