We are trying to be a different kind of church: drop-in, imaginative, reflective. This emerging church project has been growing over the years, changing in surprising and wonderful ways. It is beautiful to see this community evolve. But we’re also trying to contribute a larger conversation. Alongside other communities and congregations, writers and theologians, we are exploring what it means to inhabit sacred space – in the church and in the city. Below, you will find some of our logistical considerations as well as some of the creative contemplative ideas from recent Nitekirk events. We hope that you will find this helpful in your own church context. Let us know what you think. Let’s keep this conversation growing.
All the components we incorporate within any given month are linked to one theme. We like to choose themes that are rooted in daily life and yet open deeper questions for us. Recent themes have been Struggle, Centrepoint, Home, Turning, and Journeying. Usually, we develop four centres per month, though some themes lend themselves to a wider range of ideas. In the following pages, you will find some of our themes, along with the ideas and resources that we have developed and some of the poems and images that we have shared.
Each month, Nitekirk is hosted by one of three central Edinburgh churches. We want each Nitekirk event to have a spaciousness about it, a feeling that the church is a sanctuary with many spaces you can explore and inhabit. With this in mind, we consider the shape and space the church offers as we work through our theme. Each church has its own character and its own particular challenges. Greyfriars is a large, ancient church with movable seating, side chapel areas and wide, open floor space. St Columba’s-by-the-Castle is smaller, with a large and striking devotional painting on the wall at one end of the sanctuary, a versatile hall downstairs and a small garden outside which we sometime use as additional space. The sanctuary in Augustine has an upstairs gallery wrapped around the sanctuary, and two side chapel spaces. When we are planning Nitekirk, we have to take space into consideration. Some of the centres we develop can fell space-specific, some could be used in many kinds as sanctuary spaces.
In addition to the centres, we always have a hospitality table with tea, coffee and things to eat, a space set aside for personal conversation with clergy, and an art table with a wide range of supplies on hand. Many guests like to use art as a pathway to exploring and expressing deeper ways of being.
Sometimes, we also have a large art installation. For example, in May 2014, when our theme was Struggle, we used the image of knots, suggesting how we struggle to connect while also struggling with connections. Bella Racklin, an art student and one of our volunteers, strung knotted ropes over our heads across the sanctuary space. This simple installation changed our perception of the space we were in, encouraging us to look up and to consider how all things might be linked. You can find photos of Bella’s installation on the Struggle page.
At The Centre:
In the centre of each sanctuary, we set out a cross. Usually, we use low wooden trays, filled with pebbles and sand and dotted with candles. We have also used wide paper strips, on which prayers could be written, and candle displays on reflective trays. It is important when there are many centres and options available to present a sustained focus to the sanctuary space. The cross becomes a centre – actively and visually. Our opening and closing mediations are led from the cross and, throughout the evening, people choose to sit quietly around it – on kneelers, chairs, or on the floor – in quiet prayer and meditation.
If you have any questions about how we shared or explored these resources or would like to contribute other ideas, please use the comments section. We may share some of your comments on our facebook page – we like to keep these conversations going!