Daily Reflection – Altars in the Home

The Midday Prayer group was discussing the ways in which our worship is trying to relocate itself from our church sanctuary to our homes. Someone talked about the ways that people in other faith traditions that have more established practices of home worship have built small shrines or altars in their homes. I immediately began looking around my house, wondering where I could put such a shrine.

But this morning, during my devotions, I realized that my desk, which I’ve had since I was a teenager, and is nicked and weather-beaten, stained with ink and paint, is my home altar. It’s where I come to speak with God every morning. It’s capacious enough to allow all sorts of prayer, and I love it deeply.

And maybe that’s why I don’t really like doing office work at it, why I miss my office at St. Stephen’s. My desk is mission style, and my guess is that it was mass-produced early in the 20th century, since I still see, from time to time, other versions of the model being put out on the curb by people who have moved on to other kinds of desks. It has shelves that slide out to hold a typewriter, and that I use to hold my computer when I work. Somehow, I don’t want the computer, which is full of worries and to-do lists, to sit on the sacred space of the desk top.

And yet, I’m glad that the little shelf it sits on is part of the desk, is connected to the worship space, although not in the worship space itself. After all, the Apostle Paul told us to pray without ceasing. I fail in this constantly as I work, but the placement of my computer reminds me that my work and prayer are in conversation with each other, that I cannot live a divided life.

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  1. Joe

    Thanks for this reflection. My dining room table became my desk some years ago. Prior to that I also had on old mission style desk with open shelves on each side and one narrow center drawer. It was a great desk but one day it became unwanted. I don’t even remember why.

    For many years prior to that I had much finer desk with a total of seven drawers that had a curving shape. It belongs to my much loved Great Aunt Rachael who also happened to be my Godmother and who always encouraged me in matters of learning and faith. Yet one day it too became unwanted.

    It is true that this isolating has changed how I arrange and decorate my “desk” and how I use it for meals. Without much planning on my part it has become both more aesthetically pleasing and more meditative. I protect it from clutter and keep things orderly and dignified as much as possible. Perhaps, when the entire world is seen as a place of spiritual nourishment and worship, I will bring that ethic to bare on everything around me. Thinking about it just now, I believe I do.

    Peace.. Joe

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