Holy Ground

A Journey of Prayer, Communion, and Reflection

by Anna Martinez

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A few months ago I stumbled across an online art exhibit that God put on my heart to recreate — it was an installation piece called “Holy Ground.” I wasn't quite sure how or where, but when the leader of the Imagination Team of my church approached me, I knew this was the right time and place. The exhibit took place last weekend at our home church, Life Covenant Church, in Torrance, California, to prepare our worshippers' hearts for Easter. We transformed our entire building, decorating each room with a different theme, and as people walked through, it led them on a journey of warmth, chaos, rest, refreshment, repentance, forgiveness, and calling.

As people walked around the circle, highlighted by a burning bush, they read a write-up that accompanied each pair of shoes, then appreciated the center stage's living area. I was responsible for the entire decoration of the sanctuary. Sojourners first entered through a heavy curtain, reading a statement I had written about the Veil of the Tabernacle. They were reminded that by passing through we remember both Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, and the best news the world has ever heard — that Jesus repaired the way and humanity could now have full access to God! People were asked to take off their shoes and were met by the prayer team, who individually prayed for each person, as they entered the room. Next they looked at a huge cloth circle on the floor. In the middle was a burning bush (a.k.a., a manzanita tree with orange lights and yellow chiffon fabric) and the perimeter of the circle was lined with all types of shoes.

In the original exhibit I saw, the artist had gotten shoes from around the world, but I thought it would be much more meaningful to our congregation if I asked the members to participate. Fifteen people lent me their pairs of shoes and shared their experiences with me. This is where the real beauty in the exhibit was — I asked each person to write the story where these shoes had taken them, what the shoes represented to them, and how they found Holy Ground through these shoes. The stories that poured out of our church were truly amazing and blessed me far beyond what I had imagined. Although the entries were anonymous, I know they touched everyone who stopped to participate. It was beautiful to see people kneeling down, inspecting each pair of shoes, and savoring every story, as they imagined who these shoes belonged to.

The living room portion of the center stage creates a mood of warmth and coziness, as if to invite people in.
Look closely to see that the living area is complete with a family photo. (Yes, it's the Fisher family.)
Uplifted by the testimonies of the saints, the next station in the journey was the center stage, which I had transformed into a living room/dining room. I covered it in fabric to simulate curtains, and lit it with a several red lights to create an atmosphere of coziness and warmth. Chairs were arranged in a semicircle, facing the center, so that people could sit and gaze on the scene, imagining what type of a family lived here, as ambient music played in the background, and a carefully choreographed PowerPoint presentation I had created played on both sides of the stage. In the guide booklet that everyone followed were several meditations, filled with Scripture verses and other writings to reflect on at each station.

Other people in the congregation decorated the rest of the church , and from the sanctuary they followed a crooked path into a room of chaos, which then led into a room of restoration. As members reflected on the blackness of their sin, they were led upstairs where a huge cross was laid down with a crown of thorns and red bougainvillea around it. People knelt down on cushions to reflect, and took communion at this station, commemorating the forgiveness of sins. The dining room portion of the center stage is where people imagined what type of family ate there. The slide presentation peeks in at the background's top-left side. Next came the room of refreshment, where water, flavored with oranges, was available, and people could sit as long as they needed, smelling fresh scents and looking down on the main sanctuary. One of the last stops was a room filled with shoes (which became a theme for the entire Prayer Journey, symbolizing “calling”). Now that they had taken this journey, what were they called to do with it? This room was filled with maps, and a place to sit down and journal a response to what God had laid on peoples' hearts. Finally the journey led the group back downstairs to create a simple bookmark as a memorial to their journey, and put back on their shoes.

This undertaking, as shown in the photos below, was quite a big one, but one that paid off big time. I hope that I have been able to recreate a small piece of it for you with descriptive words and a few photos of my piece of this Journey.

The whole experience was such a positive one for me. Not only was I blessed to learn some of the amazing stories of faithful Christians, but I was able to use my talents to bless others. Rarely does my degree in art come in handy in my day-to-day life; after all, my work at my husband David’s company usually involves my accounting skills, not my artistic ones!

As you read this, I pray that you are blessed, and that this account will encourage you to consider those elements that bring you personally to Holy Ground.

Anna

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body . . . let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:19–22).
 

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Anna pauses outside of her church, Life Covenant Church, in Torrance, California, before beginning her personal Prayer Journey. As people passed through the entrance curtain, others prayed for them. Their first viewing was this interactive piece of installation art, entitled “Holy Ground,” that included the burning bush and stories from 15 people from Anna's church. As people walked slowly around the circle, highlighted by the burning bush, they read a write-up that accompanied each pair of shoes, then appreciated the center stage's living area.

The next step of the Prayer Journey was a visit to the center stage, where people sat in chairs facing the dining and living room that Anna designed. Her 10-minute, choreographed slide presentation was displayed on both sides of the stage while soft music filled the sanctuary. The living room portion of the center stage creates a mood of warmth and coziness, as if to invite people in. The dining room portion of the center stage is where people imagined what type of family ate there. The slide presentation peeks in at the background's top-left side.

These black-and-white shoes came from an Ecuadorian orphanage where missionaries washed feet and provided new shoes to poverty-stricken children. (Please read the personal account in the next image.) For one woman, the purchase of new leather sandals during a challenging time in her life enabled her to see how God had wonderful plans for her future. (Please read the personal account in the next image.) The owner of these checkered heels pursued beauty and popularity to such an extent that she felt enslaved by it. Today, she's happy to declare that the beauty in her life and marriage is built upon her relationship with God. (Please read the personal account in the next image.)

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April's family photo pages:

† Anna: A Variety of Personal Pathways to Holy Ground

† Marti: Follow the Holy Spirit's Invitation and Walk Across the Room



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