How do sacred places reflect the values and beliefs of their communities?

The group took its final trip to a place of worship on Friday, February 19th, when we visited Masjidullah, a Sunni mosque.

Today the group reflected on what it had learned in the form of a collective answer to the question posed by the title of this piece. Here is what they wrote:

How do sacred places reflect the values and beliefs of their communities?

The size of the place doesn’t only show how wealthy a community is, but how much they care and are willing to sacrifice for their religion. For example, the cathedral is thirteen stories high and the length of a football field.

The shape of a place can show what it’s celebrating – like the cathedral is in the shape of a cross because Jesus was crucified on a cross. The meetinghouse is just the shape of a house because, like the Amish, they believe in simplicity and selflessness.

Images and decorations show what the people believe in, how they do things,  and the stories that are told in their holy books or scriptures. The stained glass in the synagogue represents the light and also shows images of the creation of the world, the Ten Commandments, and the story of the Garden of Eden. Images and decorations also show where things started. For example, because the Hindu religion started in Asia, there are lots of flowers. In the synagogue, the stone in the Ark was made to resemble the Wailing Wall.

Sometimes places are changing from the original purpose to the current use, and the architecture is different from what the traditional place of worship might look like. The mosque, for example, does not have the usual built-in arches everywhere because it used to be a synagogue and then a church. at the cathedral that showed the Pope is watching over that community, and that the church is somewhere people can be with their idea of the higher spirit. At the Hindu temple, it seemed that the idols were there to watch over the community.

They all value quiet, peace, and an idea of God. They all also value respect. One way that showed was in taking off shoes, which happened at the Hindu temple and at the mosque. It also represented the idea of cleanliness.  At the mosque we performed wudu, where we cleaned our bodies with water. (A person can also make wudu in sand, dirt, or grass, too.) In the cathedral they also baptize with water to show commitment as well as cleanliness from sin. Confessionals at the cathedral offer another form of cleanliness.

The most secure part of the synagogue was the wall for the Ark, which showed that they value the Torah very highly. Idols in the Hindu temple are very valued. When people are worshipping there, they walk around them over and over while they pray, and sometimes they stop and bow. The eucharist at the cathedral is highly valued and is kept in the tabernacle, which can be very valuable.

There are a lot of fights about religion in the world, but there are similar ideas – scriptures, belief in God, and ideas of cleanliness, quiet, and peace. Some of the stories are even the same, especially at the cathedral and the synagogue. (The Torah is part of the Bible.)