Remember The Alamo
As we mentioned in our podcast, Rebecca and I recently returned to Texas. The trip had two parts. The first was a return to Houston to continue to visit and learn from our friends at reVision Houston. reVision is a ministry to youth in the juvenile justice system, although this simple description does not do justice to the comprehensive nature of their work.
After Houston, we traveled to San Antonio, where we presented the work of Braid Mission to the Living Stones conference. This conference gathers representatives of many diocese from the USA and Canada to discuss new opportunities for non-traditional ministry. We found our time at Living Stones to be very helpful and appreciated the attention that brothers and sisters in Christ afforded Braid and our mission.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visits and the cities of Houston and San Antonio. Both are great places in their own way. They were both full of surprises that were delightful, and I would like to share one such surprise.
As many of you are aware, San Antonio home to The Alamo, the former Spanish Mission that became the site of a famous battle for Texas independence. While the Texans lost the battle, they fought valiantly whilst vastly outnumbered by Mexican forces. As I have spent significant periods of my life in Tennessee, I was made aware that The Alamo was significant for two of Tennessee’s native sons, Davy Crockett and Sam Houston. Davy Crockett caught my imagination when I was in seventh grade with his statement, “…you may all go to hell, I will go to Texas.” He did go to Texas and fought and died at The Alamo, sacrificing his life for the principle of independence.
Needless to say, I was not going to leave San Antonio without a visit to this famous shrine. And a shrine it is. I don’t have space to go into detail but suffice it to say this old mission is hallowed ground for Texas. It is such a sanctuary for The Republic of Texas that men are politely asked to remove their hats when they enter. There is no doubt of its significance to Texas and, quite frankly, the nation as a whole.
As Rebecca (another Tennessean) and I made our way to the shrine we entered onto the plaza in front of the old mission. It was there that we encountered one of those great surprises that the universe throws your way. On the square in front of The Alamo was a local Hindu group setting up for a large outdoor worship service. About 150 people were on yoga mats preparing to engage in 108 sun salutations. As we watched them begin, a member of the congregation came over to us and explained what was happening and invited us to join them in worship. It was explained to us that the sun salutations were essential for this time of deepest winter because the soul is tempted to hibernate. The salutation is designed to awaken the light within us, within our souls, so that we do not fall asleep but engage our life.
There is so much that is of interest about this scene. The layering of cultures. The nature of modern America. The breakdown of stereotypes.
But, what I found myself considering most of all was the nature of a sanctuary. Here I stood in front of a traditional sanctuary, a church mission which had been repurposed as a sanctuary for Texas and American independence and the American worship of the underdog. Here in front of this repurposed sanctuary was a religious body who had fashioned a collective sanctuary on paving stones by gathering and marking space for collective worship.
It also struck me that each yoga mat was itself functioning as a sanctuary as it marked space where a ritual was to take place, much like a Muslim prayer mat serves that purpose. Not to be lost in any of this is the understanding implicit in the invitation extended to Rebecca and me that the ritual was to awaken the Light and source of energy contained within our selves. This makes each and every body a sanctuary for the Holy, an image we Christians will identify with. Which helped me understand the power of the sanctuary that is The Alamo and its mystique for us; it awakens that sense of independence within all of us and takes that part of us that feels like an underdog and gives us courage to face our advisories, what and whoever they may be, with conviction.
We give a lot of thought to sanctuary at Braid because we are often questioned about where OUR sanctuary is located, where is our building, our ritual center. I think the short answer to this question is simply, Remember The Alamo!