Creating a Sacred Space: Preparing an Altar of Remembrance


Hebrew: Mizbeach מִזְבֵּ֫חַ

An altar or place of sacrifice

In the Old Testament, agreements were sometimes ratified through the building of altars.

Throughout scripture we find the people of God creating sacred spaces, from piles of rocks to a Tabernacle and a Temple. And they all have one thing in common—they are places where people encounter God. The altars were built to serve as a remembrance of their encounter with God and his faithfulness in their lives. Altars were built by Noah (Gen 8:20); Abraham at Shechem, Hebron, Moriah and Bethel (which means: house of God) (Gen 12:7-8, 13:18, 22:9); Isaac (Gen 26:25); Jacob at Shechem and Bethel (Gen 33:20, 35:7); Moses (Ex 17:15, 24:4); Joshua (Josh 8:30, 24:25-27); Samuel (I Sam 7:12) and many others. As you study these scriptures, note the encounter with God that each person had.


Two noteworthy stories:

1) When the Israelites crossed the River Jordan, each tribe was instructed to take one stone from the river bed and they used those stones to create an altar to the Lord. Joshua also created an altar in the river bed itself:

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had chosen—one from each of the tribes of Israel. He told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.”

So the men did as Joshua had commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan River, one for each tribe, just as the Lord had told Joshua. They carried them to the place where they camped for the night and constructed the memorial there. Joshua also set up another pile of twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan, at the place where the priests who carried the Ark of the Covenant were standing. And they are there to this day. (Joshua 4: 4-9)

2) After Samuel led the Israelites in prayer, fasting, confession, sacrifice and offerings, leading to their victory over the Philistines:

Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer (which means “the stone of help”), for he said, “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!”

In this creative spiritual practice, the group works together to create a sacred space/an altar of remembrance. This is 11873459_873002919461172_1574292134680455684_nperfect for a retreat or an evening, day or week-long event where you want participants to have a hand in creating the space in which you will worship and/or meet together as a community. Beforehand set up a table with a number of small items (about 1.5-2 times the number of participants). A variety of items can be used: figurines, rocks, pictures, icons, even small toys. I have a box of what my husband would call “knick-knacks” that I keep packed and ready to go for events at which this exercise will be done. In the pictures here we added colored scarves as a way for the Lord to speak to participants, as well.

The hand-out can be found here: Creating a Sacred Space. Please note that it is copyrighted material, and limited use permission is granted to use this exercise and hand-out within a non-for-profit spiritual setting. Please keep the hand-out as it is with copyright and website information at the bottom.

T11885246_873003252794472_4384868215940862797_nhe steps to this exercise for the participants are as follows:

  1.  Pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
  2. Consider the items on the table(s). Pick up, touch, feel. Ask God to lead you to one.
  3. Take the item back to your seat or on a walk with God and ask Him to speak through this item. Remember all he has done through his faithfulness in your life.
  4. Once you have spent some time meditating on your item, take it to our altar space and place it as God directs you.
  5. As you wait, journal about how God met you and what he is saying to you.
  6. Once all have placed their items, look and see how your item relates to the others around it. Do you see something new as you view it within the context of community?

11880333_873002682794529_6299005355626697529_nThis has proven to be a very powerful experience for participants. The room often becomes very hushed with sacred reverence as the people move to prepare the altar—separate yet unified. It is amazing to see how God creates a BEaUtiful picture as the objects work together and bring more revelation together.

We will often follow our time with observations. I hesitate to use the word discussion as that often takes it from a “heart” experience to a “head” experience, and the whole point of doing creative spiritual practices is to keep them out of their “heads” and in their “hearts.” I will ask them11899933_873003026127828_6887716747837447111_n to see how their object works together with the other objects around it and ask what God might be revealing in the items as a whole. This adds great unity and community among those gathered together. Depending on how large your group is you might want them to share with a smaller group, then come back together as a larger whole.

Please let me know if you have any questions. If you use this please let me know how it went and what God did by commenting below. I would love to hear how God used this in your church or ministry setting.

Blessings of ARTistry, CREATivity & BEaUty, Jody


God's Creative Gift by Jody ThomaeJody Thomae is the author of God’s Creative Gift—Unleashing the Artist in You, a devotional book with Bible studies to nurture the creative spirit within and to serve as a resource for creative Christians, artists, musicians and worshippers. She has been involved in worship arts ministry since 1997, coordinating artistic involvement in church services and regional worship events through dance, drama, poetry and fine arts. She performs, chor eographs, preaches, leads worship, teaches, coordinates and leads workshops in the area of creativity, spirituality and embodied prayer. JodyThomaeCDcoverart_FA_printShe has also recently released a devotional CD, Song of the Beloved. Her passion is for the revelation of God to be made more real through the prophetic use of the arts in church and formational ministry. It is her desire to portray the message of Christ’s desperate and unfailing love for His people to help sustain the hearts of the broken and weary. Life scriptures include Psalm 27; Isaiah 50:4-7; and Zephaniah 3:14-17.


5 thoughts on “Creating a Sacred Space: Preparing an Altar of Remembrance

  1. Diane Gaffney

    Jody—So good to see you back with your creative posts!!!
    I have missed you! love, blessing and prayers
    Diane Gaffney

    • Hi Dianne! Good to hear from you! This is just a start and book #2 is still the priority. But my plan is to add more creative exercises in the future — like the ones you’ve been a part of through Healing Care Ministries in Ashland!
      Stay in touch! Blessings, Jody

    • Hi Jennifer! I know the shipping from US is expensive. But I know it’s available through Amazon overseas and they do international shipping. Let me know if you have any luck. If not we can work something out through my Square store 🙂
      Creative blessings, Jody

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