Scattered holiness

Yesterday I joined in with a discussion at the Church and Media Network conference about the presence of God in digital spaces. In a tweet sent from my desk at church I said “everywhere is holy or nowhere is holy – there is no place where God isn’t”.  Not surprisingly, my phraseology was not met with universal acclaim! Of course my intention had not been to diminish the importance of God’s presence in consecrated or ‘set apart’ places – but rather to emphasise its importance elsewhere. However, in the pith-driven and necessarily reductionist environment of Twitter, such subtleties are hard to express.

I was still turning some of this over in my mind when I came home from a pastoral visit last night half way through a programme about life in the neonatal unit of a busy hospital. Over one thousand children – living and dying, are seen in the hospital every year. After being filmed praying with an 18-year old mother and her dying son, the chaplain(pictured below)  looked straight at the camera and said:

‘I’ve always thought that its a wonderful thing to be involved with families in the happy times; but it’s a far greater privilege to be involved  with them in times of suffering. As soon as we harbour love in our hearts we will suffer. This is the whole thing. The inevitable consequence of love is that we suffer. That’s how love deepens and grows – there’s no easy way to love.’

Image: ITV.com

Here, surely, is a man in a dark place demonstrating the truth that there is ‘no place where God isn’t’?  Sometimes the discussion of theoretical theology at conferences and across the wires can seem very divorced from the harsh beauty and strange reality to be found elsewhere. I still believe that God’s holiness can be found in every place, but I also feel that there are others, maybe like this chaplain, more qualified to describe that truth than I am.

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