Maggie Niles,
Grace Church, Honesdale

For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.
Isaiah 56:7

I wonder what “my house” looks like to God. Variations come flooding in. First of all, I bet the definition of “house” is very elastic, and I bet a “house of prayer” can be most anywhere, and finally I hope that the “all nations” part comes true sooner rather than later.

Holy places I remember include the magnificent (and nearly complete!) National Cathedral in Washington, DC, which offers a daily welcome to everyone and frequent services for all denominations and religions. Once when I was at school there I saw from my bedroom window one Saturday night a long line of candles winding around the flying buttresses, initiating the Greek Orthodox Holy Saturday baptismal rites.

My list of holy places includes several small chapels in Iceland. My hiking pals and I spent a charmed hour in one of those farm chapels, all but unused now, but with a freshly ironed alter cloth and a small bunch of wildflowers set out in welcome. Our local guide sang Icelandic hymns accompanied by her guitar. Here were two nations, anyway, making a house of prayer.

Open to everyone who walks any part of the famous, grueling, and winsome Camino de Santiago are the charming and historic churches along the way. Almost every pilgrim stops by for a quick prayer or meditation if not for a picnic lunch. Then they take off their boots and slump against the stone walls outside. Many of these churches are out in the country, and they are a beacon to those of us who wonder if lunch or prayer time will ever come.

But holy places, places where God might live, are everywhere, aren’t they? And they exist in every town in every country in the world, probably in any place people are loving and helpful, attentive and good. Certainly, the site of an outdoor wedding or an impromptu baptism or a windswept burial stone in Tibet would all qualify. Where else?



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