There it was for everyone–anyone–to see.
An altar. Right over their fireplace. Right next to the Martha Stewart cookbook. What were they thinking? Was that even allowed? Were they going to get into trouble?
When I was in junior high I went over to a new friend’s home and I was shocked to see such a blatant and sacred expression of faith right in the midst of…life. Messy life with its fights, hot dogs, accidents, tv watching, and math homework. This was no place for incense, icons, candles, and holy water.
It’s not that I had never seen holy objects before. We’ve all been to homes that have crosses in the living room, a mezuzah at the front door, a prayer rug rolled up in car, a rosary hung on a mirror. But I had so rarely seen such blatant, public sacred space in a home.
As I’ve gotten older, gone to seminary, and had dialogue with multiple faiths it is still (surprisingly) a rare thing to find a home altar in a Protestant home. I think there’s something placed deep in us to assume a shrine or altar is breaking a big rule. Yet, my experience has been that Protestants are still deeply moved by holy objects and aids.
I’m not talking about the crosses and Psalm passages hung up for all to see. I’m talking about the things tucked away in bedside tables and wrapped lovingly in drawers. Something so special that few people will ever see them.
But is that really a good thing? I can’t think of a better example of sharing your faith than to explain to someone why you wear frankincense oil once a week to work after your life changing trip to Jerusalem.
In other faiths that see home altars as an essential expression of faith, young people use social media to share photos of their altars (they change constantly) with each other and get such encouragement from fellow believers.
I want that for us. I want us to not only proudly show our sacred objects, but see them as an opportunity to show a glimmer of our faith. Our faith. Our human, personal, in this moment faith. Not what someone said it was supposed to be or what you think it’s supposed to be. But what it actually is.
A few friends have bravely agreed to share some of their holy objects in photos (some also providing explanations). I think there’s nothing more intimate and beautiful than sharing something this special so I want to also express my deepest gratitude for this vulnerability.
I would like to make this a series, so if anyone feels inspired to share in the future, it is anonymous and welcome to all (and all faiths).
an icon, prayer candle, and statue of the Old City all from the Holy Land
holy water from the Jordan given by a beloved (and recently deceased) friend after her trip to the Holy Land
a collection of Christian jewelry
“The rosary hangs in my car (used to carry in pocket), the pectoral cross was given to me when I was licensed as a local pastor, the pen was a gift from a parishioner (I will use it at times to write sermons), the Trinity Icon is the Trinity Icon, and a notebook I keep prayer notes in.”