This article explores some surprising gateways to the Divine. These can provide opportunities for both evangelisation and healing. Bridie Stringer is a visiting lecturer in Pastoral Theology at St Mary’s University, Twickenham.
I was intrigued by a recent news item from the Northern Irish city where I was born (Derry/Londonderry/Doire). This city is, of course, frequently associated with political turmoil and violence and, more recently, reconciliation and profound soul-searching about historical narratives, political solutions and religious discourse. The news item related to a wooden sculpture called The Temple created by American sculptor David Best. The idea behind the sculpture was to ‘inspire reflection, contemplation and honouring’1 and in the period from its completion to its consumption by fire, the Temple was a place where people gathered to reflect, remember and to place messages for those who were no longer alive. One religious minister criticised the concept as a pagan practice, leaving people open to the influence of the occult and Satan2 and took the view that it was not the way to God. He said that ‘the idea that flames would bring healing or restoration is not an idea found in the Bible’.
I have no desire to weigh in heavily with a counter argument about the validity of this religious viewpoint but instead to reflect on the burning of the Temple artifact as an example of how we appropriate ritual and symbol to authenticate our profound experiences and express our unspoken aspirations.