Sunday, March 15, 2009


One of the innovations that I argue as part of the emerging church is a multiplication of sacraments. By this I am drawing on Gibbs and Bolger's idea of transforming secular space. I would actually contest the notion of secular space as many evangelicals use it - being space that has no sacred purpose. But that comes out of my conviction that all space is intrinsically sacred. It might be better to speak of sacralized and unsacralized space - meaning that space can be permitted a sacrametal reality through our use. I hesitate to say that our use is the only way this can occur, but rather that one way the space is sacralized is through our use. But is the term sacrament the right one here?

The notion that I put forward is that some emerging church proponents are actually turning worship innovations into sacraments. Should sacraments have a special understanding? Should they be restricted to initiation and covenantial rites? Or should they be a rich tapestry of activities which express our relationality to the divine? I think the term sacramentals might give an alternate answer that will really be helpful.

I would affirm that there is something special in sacrament. Sacrament makes present a reality that has tremendous religious potential. Through sacrament we encounter the transcendent Other. It is a helpful term. However, Lombard realized that as a term it meant something specific but did not name the exact rite that enacted the sacrament. In fact there are many variations on the rites that we call sacraments. So he used the term sacramentals to catch the actions. And it implies something of the sacrament character while at the same time allowing sacrament to have a privileged place in our ecclesial vocabulary.

Now I would argue that there are a rich variety of sacramentals. That is actions in which the transformation or sacralization of space occurs. This could be as traditional as sprinkling holy water to as untraditional as creating spontaneous art as an act of worship.

Just something I've been thinking about.

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