Shena Woolridge takes a beachside stroll to a sacred space.
Would you like to walk along a stunning coastline with the sun warming your every sense and clean blue water to enjoy? Imagine this scene and then picture yourself coming across a fresh expression of church in this most relaxed and beautiful of settings.
Summer nights' sacred space is an initiative to get out and meet people where they are – and in our locality of Scarborough and Filey, that means the beach. Revd Sam Foster, fresh expressions pioneer minister for the CofE's Scarborough Deanery, piloted this initiative last year and we're now in full swing for the 2010 summer season.
People have been invited to come and light a candle to celebrate something or remember someone, some have prayed, many have cried and everyone has had a story to share. We've been so privileged to be the body of Christ together for people who need to be listened to, affirmed, blessed and unburdened. This expression of Christ's love has attracted all ages from the tiniest tot to the most seasoned earth travellers, from the immaculately dressed taking a stroll after a family meal to the bare-footed beach dwellers.
Some have designed images to portray their love and signified their beloved with names and prayers. Most evenings we have welcomed more than 200 people, both individuals and those who come in groups of all sizes and types.
Relationships are slowly developing with regulars and others who are drawn to the shore, like the young man who sand sculpts. We're looking forward to his artistic talent being included in our work soon. Others came in 2009 and remembered us; some came back to thank God for answering their prayer.
We often hear comments about how people who are 'not religious' (their words) have experienced a spiritual encounter of peace and harmony after their time at sacred space.
I have been struck as to how the area seems to have an invisible 'dome' surrounding it. On returning from a paddle most evenings, I've often been moved by the awareness that as I approach the area all other sound and distractions seem to disappear and I walk respectfully past people on their knees or holding hands together around their chosen lantern.
We hope to be able to invite the beach community to explore faith through film or some sort of course. It will be good to see what kind of community may grow, a community drawn together through the long days of summer.