In Lay Terms

Random Ramblings From a Church Nerd

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Still Obsessing

If you are a long-term reader of this blog, you heard me a few months wax not-so-eloquently about my acute obsession with New York City. Well, I just want to let you know that this obsession has not died out. Reading Breathing Space is continuing to feed my obsession. As I read about the joys, trials, and tribulations of a pastor in the South Bronx, I want to be there with them. I want to try out my own version of ministry in this city.

Why do I have this obsession with New York? I'm not sure. One reason is that, as far as the US goes, New York is the archetypical city. It is the standard to which other cities are often held. I'm not saying this to put down other cities, because they are each unique and special in their own way. New York just looks and feels different somehow. It was an innovator in how a city should be developed. Manhattan instituted the street grid system very early in the city's development. It's very difficult to get lost in Manhattan. They also built the subway to allow people from all over this major metro area to travel to any other part - or to no where at all. New York knows that it lacks space, so people make up for it by pretending that strangers aren't all around them. They either pretend strangers are friends, or they pretend strangers don't exist. It's an interesting mentality.

OK - here's where I bridge to urban spirituality. New York has found a way to make it's space very sacred. I think that this comes out the knowledge that there is no space that is unused. There is no personal ownership, it is all shared within the community. People develop sacred spaces for themselves around the city. Several folks probably share a particular sacred space.

People in cites also understand that they must live in community with one another. Their own survival depends on it. Folks who live in the city accept that they will never be truly will never be truly silent...the earth always has distractions. I think that urban dwellers understand this better than the rest of us (I'm an urban dweller wanna-be). For many of us, we lack the ability to pray, or meditate, or be in the presence of God unless we get a very sterile place. This sterile place must be quiet (or have mood music playing). It must be the right lighting. It must be filled with the right kind of people, or not be filled at all. However, there is a difference between a sterile space and a sacred space. The sterile space is a myth. There is no space that can truly provide a perfect prayer or meditation spot. There are only illusions of such space, usually set up by creative architecture and ambiance. Urban dwellers don't believe in sterile environments. Everything has been touched before. Everything has been use for a variety of purposes.

Urban dwellers worry more about the self than the immediate environment. They do not blame their spiritual dryness on the environment. They take that responsibility on themselves. They know that they must overcome the environment...or learn how to work with the environment as it is. It's not an easy challenge, and few of us are up to the task.

These are just some initial thoughts on urban spirituality. Besides the books I'm reading, I have several friends who are very well versed in this area. I'm hoping we can work together to develop more thought about urban spirituality. Until then, I'm open to your comments.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ross,

I am an engineering student in Istanbul Technical University. I am writing an academic essay and I want to cite you in my essay.
Could you please tell your surname? :)

3:44 PM  

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