Engaging the Space We Worship In

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, we’ve asked some of our 2016 National Gathering workshop presenters to share their thoughts on their importance of their workshops in today’s context. Jess Fisher is one of our presenters. Learn more about her workshop at the end of this post. We invite you to join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

by Jess Fisher

Growing up, I found God at summer camp: sitting around the campfire, praying in the chapel in the pines, and singing spirituals a cappella under the night sky. There was a mystery about God in the woods, something all around you, yet untouchable.
My experience of God in church was quite different. The mystery wasn’t there. It might come once in a while in Communion or a Baptism, or at the Christmas Eve candlelight service, but that was about it. Instead of being invited into the wonder of God, I was asked to sit quietly in an uncomfortable pew, facing forward where others did all the action.

Jess Fisher-2Years later, I began to see the arts as a means of bringing the wonder and mystery of God into the sanctuary. I started out with prayer stations looking for something interactive that might help each of us, with our different learning styles, to be involved and active in worship. In my seminary internship at Church of the Pilgrims, I explored art installations as a new kind of proclamation. We also talked about improv and body work as new ways to engage the mind, body, and spirit in worship and life.

All of this has added up to a new perspective for me on how to engage the space we worship in as a means to bring grace and wonder. Rooting what we do to ancient traditions, risking new ways of being, and reflecting on how it has impacted our spiritual walks brings me back to the mystery of God I experienced in those summers at camp.

In Atlanta at the 2016 National Gathering, I invite you to join me in a conversation about worship spaces. We’ll talk about incorporating experiential elements, the visual and dramatic arts, and movement, all while considering the permanent and temporary physical setup of our sanctuaries.

Come with your stories, questions, and ideas. You’ll leave with a process, sanctuary map, and resources to continue the conversation back in your faith community. I hope to see you there!


Jess Fisher, a liturgical artist and graphic designer, brings the visual arts into the church, hoping to help others find new connections with the Holy One in and around them. Follow Jess at LiturgyBeyondWords.com.

Jess’ workshop, Holy Ground: Thinking About the Spaces Where We Worship, is on Thursday during workshop block 3.