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A thin place

Posted by Simon Parke, 04 September 2019, 9.13am

Do you know of a ‘thin place’?

I first came across the phrase when visiting Little Gidding.

‘This is a thin place,’ I was told…though it seemed like any other place to me, with its own joys, difficulties, blockages and sorrows.

A ‘thin place’, as you probably know, is a place where the space between heaven and earth grows thin, boundaries dissolved, making it easier to encounter the sacred.

I’ve heard the phrase used about other retreat centres as well, for whom even the rumour of it must be a rather helpful marketing tool.

I’m reminded of Glastonbury Abbey in 1191. With pilgrim numbers down, they ‘discovered’ the tomb of King Arthur on their premises.  No problems with pilgrim numbers after that. The place was suddenly very ‘thin’.

‘We believe we are a thin place.’ It has been said to me several times and in several locations and it all sounds rather romantic at first - the idea that there are a few places on earth where communication with the divine is especially easy; where revelation hangs like a ripe peach within easy reach.

The wider implication is more troublesome, however; and darker by far.

For feeding the pomposity of the claim, and the accompanying hysteria, is the wider implication that most places on earth are thick places, where any sort of connection with the sacred is as problematic as a phone signal on Dartmoor.

And this is not my understanding or experience of creation, which is a good deal more generous and even-handed than this.

God can find us anywhere…and you can be sure no one ever called the pot-holed Damascus Road a thin place…

So I’m happy with the idea…as long as it is universal, meaning the gulag is a thin place.

The cemetery is a thin place.

The supermarket is a thin place.

The hospital is a thin place.

Golgotha is a thin place.

My bed is a thin place.

The walk to the post box is a thin place.

The setting where you read this is a thin place.

As is the traffic jam and the train journey.

If these (and all other places) are allowed, then all talk of thin place is beautifully and wonderfully true.


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