Shoeless Joe Jackson, meet Shoeless Rev. Wikstrom.
It all started about a dozen years ago. (Could it really be that long?) I was engaged in a two-year program on Spiritual Direction with the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation. During our first nine-day residency we were given one 36-hour period of silence. During this time we could do anything we wanted, as long as it didn't feel like something we "had" to do -- we were to be open to the movings of the Spirit. A real Sabbath time.
At one point during this silent retreat-within-a-retreat I went for a walk. It was a beautiful day -- clear skies, warm sun, brisk air. As I walked along one of the convent's many trails I came across a large stone at the corner of a cross-road. It was a large chunk of crystal, actually, and was situated just so that the sun shone directly on it. To say "it called out to me" might sound strange, but there's no other way I know how to describe it. And, so, I sat on the still partially frozen ground by this rock and proceeded to meditate.
The story of Moses turning aside to check out a burning bush was certainly in my consciousness, but I was still a little surprised when I "heard" a voice say, "Take off your shoes, you are on holy ground." And as this was a 36-hour period in which the only "rule" was to follow our instincts, I proceeded to do so. I stayed by that rock for a little while, and then just as quickly as I felt called over to it I felt ready to move on.
But as I began to put my shoes back on I found myself wondering about where the boundary was around this "holy ground." Was there a circle of some as yet indeterminate diameter that was holy ground with everything beyond being more mundane? I stood up, still barefoot, and took a couple of steps away from the stone. This ground felt exactly the same to me as the ground on which I'd been sitting -- I could feel the icy coldness of it, and the soft oozy warm of the surface layer of thawed mud. I took a few more steps and then realized -- not just thought or came to the conclusion that, but truly realized -- that there was no place that was not holy ground. I kept my shoes off for the rest of my walk. And the rest of that day.
And when I returned to Yarmouth I began to honor that experience by taking off my shoes before I preached. I did so both to remind myself of this powerful experience and to recognize that when I had the privilege of standing behind the pulpit and preaching to that community I was standing on holy ground.
Yesterday, during the mid-week worship service we hold here on the labyrinth (in good weather) I felt compelled to remove my shoes before walking, and I remembered that experience at Bon Secour so many years ago. And again I found it hard to put my shoes back on. Where does "holy ground" end and "unholy ground" begin? I have to say, I've still never found that demarcation.