Author: Sara Blackstock
Creating a space in the home which can be a focus for this experience of feeling. A sacred space – a space where a child, family member or a whole family can go and BE, a place to be reminded that in fact we are always in the presence of God, a place to be with God, a place to FEEL the reality of the love of God and family, can be a focal part of the home life.
Values can be felt…. “Mind knows quantity, reality, meanings. But quality – values – is felt. That which feels is the mutual creation of mind, which knows, and the associated spirit, which reality-izes.” (UB 1220) By establishing a space in the home, the spirit and the mind can join in helping the individual FEEL the values of truth, beauty, goodness and love.
Building a family altar can be an experience in which all members of the family can be involved. The altar itself can evolve, and can be fluid as items are added and subtracted on a daily, weekly or special time basis.
An altar can be a space set aside for worship, for honoring the patterns of divinity found in and around us, for bringing God closer to us through symbols. Children especially respond to beauty and deeply appreciate items found in nature.
How to Begin
Find or create a space in the home or yard, out of the way if the family desires this to be a quiet area, or in a main path of travel if the family desires the altar to be a constant reminder of the presence of God, of the sacred, as they go about their daily business. For younger children, the parents may participate primarily in creating the altar; older children will enjoy adding their own ideas and symbols to it.
Creating a Space
Beauty is an essential part in the creation of a sacred space. We seek and love beauty and it stimulates our minds to attain cosmologic levels of thought.
“Beauty is the intellectual recognition of the harmonious time-space synthesis of the far flung diversification of phenomenal reality, all of which stems from pre-existent and eternal oneness.” (UB 647)
“Universal beauty embraces the harmonious relations of rhythms of the cosmic creation;…” (UB 647)
A space or platform can be used upon which to place items which members of the family would like to contribute. Beauty can be created using items of nature, a small tree, plant, rock or shell as a center image. Fabric stores carry most exquisite materials which can be laid as a place upon which to bring other items to the altar. Aspects of the altar can be discussed as a family, and they can be changed from time to time. Members of the family can take turns having their ideas implemented.
Elements which Can Be Added to the Altar
* Candles (obviously only to be lit when an adult is present and put out when the adult walks away, even for a moment!)
* Mandalas – coloring books have some excellent mandala patterns which can be colored and hung on a wall or area around the altar; a discussion of what a mandala represents (see “symbols” in index)
* Anything from nature, perhaps found on a walk looking for items to add to the altar – rocks, shells, leaves, twigs, nests – the only limit might be space.
* Music – CD’s or tapes with a variety of music offered to appeal to many tastes in the family; instruments to be played such as a flute, occarina, drum, harmonica;
* Symbols from religions honoring symbolism in all paths; these could be representations of the Buddha, the elephant god of the Hindus, the I Ching, the cross, angels, God’s eye from Native American religions.
* Meaningful sayings from The Urantia Book or any of the worlds great religious texts;
* Religious books such as The Urantia Book, the Bible, the Koran, the Upanishads, the Tora
* The Lord’s Prayer written with charcoal on a piece of cedar board, just as Jesus did. See pg. 1389.
Activities at the Altar
Members of the family can have their own moments at the altar, or a family can gather around the altar at a special time, perhaps before or after a family meeting. Prayers can be said, quiet time honored, songs sung, beautiful or meaningful sayings read; powerful moments of grief or joy can be brought to the altar.
History of the Altar
The Urantia Book presents some interesting historical facts about altars. It could be a valuable discussion to talk about the evolution of the altar. Here are just a few tidbits from The Urantia Book on altars:
Altar fires and lighted candles were considered the best means of resisting ghosts and evil spirits (925) The hearth or fireplace became a sacred spot. Stone altars were thought to be dwelling places of God. (969) Today Hindus kindle altar fires with primitive fire drills because of the belief the way it has always been done is the more sacred; (1004) In India it was believed as did their Andite forebears that the mother was the priestess and the father the priest and the family hearth was the altar. (1027) Jesus was sickened at the sight of the blood of animals and the sounds of the dying animals near the altar. (1379) Jesus’ earth family had an altar in their home. It was at this altar where they would gather to sing songs of praise and say formal prayers. When Jesus wrote out The Lord’s Prayer on a “…piece of smooth cedar board about eighteen inches square, with a piece of charcoal….” it could be assumed that this became a part of the family altar.(1389)
An altar can be built temporarily – on a mountaintop, on the beach, in the desert, by a lake. A space can be created to honor the sacred moments in human experience anywhere, anytime. By doing so ourselves and helping our families to create such space, we bring the sacred,.and mysterious into our everyday lives.