Reimagining Public Spaces

by Mark Votava

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In my life I have often taken the public spaces in my neighborhood for granted.  I have not seen the value of what they bring to my life.  I have not understood how these spaces can bring about a natural relational connection in everyday life.  After living in a particular place for a decade, I am now seeing the sacredness of the public spaces around me.

•  The sacredness of the world

The entire world is sacred.  God created the world in sacredness.  So that makes place, locality and neighborhood sacred in everyday life.  This includes our public spaces.

•  Experiencing public spaces as sacred

The parish includes the public spaces we inhabit every day.  What if we experienced these public spaces as sacred?  What if we believed in their sacredness as the body of Christ in everyday life together in the parish?  What if we experienced everything in our locality as sacred?

•  Viewing all of life as sacred

God would do miracles in us if we had this paradigm of sacredness in everyday life together. Sean Benesh says, “…what would happen if we viewed everything as… sacred?…”  What if we saw our parks, theatres, museums, retail shops, restaurants, coffee shops, sidewalks, farmers markets, schools, playgrounds, music venues, pubs, community centers, fitness clubs, salons, massage parlors, community gardens, arcades, pool halls, block parties, street festivals, basketball courts and all kinds of other public spaces as sacred?

•  The spaces where relational connection happens

These are the spaces where relational connection happens in everyday life.  These are the sacred spaces where relational revelations happen.  These are the spaces where we learn from our neighbors.  These are the spaces where we relationally interact with our neighbors.

•  Awakening to the presence of God in public spaces

Public spaces connect us together in so many ways in the parish.  Public spaces are where social capital is built.  A good part of our everyday lives resides within public spaces.  Public spaces are sacred and infused with the presence of God if we could only see.

•  The connective tissue of our everyday world

We have become blinded to God’s presence in everyday life.  We need to recover this awareness of God’s presence within the sacredness of public spaces, where humanity finds life and enjoyment each week.  James Howard Kunstler states, “The public realm is the connective tissue of our everyday world…”

•  Valuing our public spaces

Without valuing our public spaces, we lose a sense of the sacredness of life.  Life becomes boxed up.  Life becomes fragmented.  Life becomes lonelier than it has to be.

•  Public spaces can save us from disconnection

The sacredness of public spaces can save us from a life of disconnection.  Public spaces give us life.  Public spaces are a big part of the parish we inhabit together.  The parish imagination needs public spaces just as the body needs food and water.

How have you experienced public spaces as the place where relational connection happens?