This past weekend, I had the opportunity to return to holy ground – a very special place where the door between heaven and earth is cracked open for a moment.
The place is called Honey Creek, an isolated spot on the marshes of Glynn County that serves as a retreat center for the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia. Over many decades, pilgrims and visitors to this ground have described it as a “place without walls” where you can be who God intended you to be.
Honey Creek is one of those “thin places” where the veil between heaven and earth is lifted.
There are a number of famous thin places on this earth.
Iona is one of those. Iona is the place where Christianity came to Scotland about 1500 years ago. The northern Scotland geography and weather of Iona are opposites of the tranquil lowcountry of the Honey Creek landscape, but they are both thin places.
So, what exactly makes a thin place?
As I sat in the chapel at Honey Creek, I reflected on this question, which probably has many answers. As I thought about the decades I had been going to Honey Creek, the words from the theologian Kierkegaard came into my head: “Life is best understood backward, but must be lived forward.”
As I looked backward, reliving many Honey Creek experiences, all I could think about was the many wonderful people I had met over those years. People who were initially strangers but became lasting friends. People who shared their stories and helped me write new ones.
That was it! One of the things that makes a thin place sacred is the lives and spirits of those people who consecrated the ground with their presence and their stories.
With this insight, it came to me that perhaps there were uncountable thin places not necessarily confined by geography – those places are where people of faith are coming together seeking Christ.
Jesus said in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name I am with them.”
That powerful promise is what we sense in thin places – the presence of God in Christ – the Creator and the created almost touching.
Thin-place experiences can have a disorienting but transforming effect. I have had many such disorienting and transforming experiences with faith friends who brought me close to a thin place.
So, you don’t have to make a pilgrimage to Iona or Honey Creek or some other sacred site to seek a thin place. All you have to do is call a couple of friends and get together with these words, “Come, Lord Jesus, be present with us now.”
The Rev. Joe Bowden is the assisting priest at Church of the Good Shepherd.