Space may exhilarate and space may dishearten.
You have experienced the exhilarating power of space if you have attended a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston or worshiped the Lord in a basilica in France. Something about the space elevates the human spirit and enriches the experience that takes place within it.
You have experienced the disheartening power of space if you have ever rented space from a slumlord who fails to maintain the property within which you live. The slumlord, whose strategy is to maximize profit by minimizing expenses, tells you through the neglect of space that you don’t matter. Consequently, the space welcomes you daily with the message that you are unimportant and dispensable.
Parenthetically, as a pastor who lived in several parsonages, I have experienced both the exhilarating and disheartening power of space. The maintenance of the parsonage by the congregation – or the lack of it – spoke volumes to me and my family. In some contexts, it encouraged us while in others it demoralized us.
But now to my main point: the spaces within which we gather each week as local bodies of believers also has the power to exhilarate and dishearten. Consequently, it may support our efforts or hinder them. The Christian in a wheel chair knows all-too-well the power of space to speak. He or she hears clear messages every time they attempt to gather with their brothers and sisters in Christ. The space tells them whether or not they are a nuisance or a blessing, a part of the whole or an appendage.
But gathering space speaks in more subtle ways. It may invite or repel, inspire or discourage, lift us up or bring us down, transform us or conform us. As one example, when I sit on a pew with a kneeler before me, I receive one message, but when I sit on a padded cinema seat, I receive another. Perhaps you will add examples to illustrate the same point.
Since space has power to speak, those responsible for the weekly gathering of the local church benefit from attempting to exegete their space. From time to time we best ask, "How does our gathering space speak to those who enter into it?"