By Camryn Manning, Opinions Editor
November 15, 2023
On Friday, Oct. 27, Dr. Barbara Pemberton’s Honors OBU Connections course, “Sacred Spaces,” traveled to Hot Springs, Arkansas for a day of study. The trip focused on seeing sacred spaces in real life, as the class’s focus is on sacred religious or historical spaces around the world. The group visited the Congregation House of Israel Synagogue and Christ Anglican Church on the morning of the trip.
The trip featured many insights into the sacred spaces visited and the beliefs of the spaces’ congregants. Honors Secretary Cody Pallen decided to join in on the trip because of the significance of the places visited.
“Each has their own distinctive history and ways of worship,” Pallen said. “It’s important to learn about the different sacred places and sacred ways of worship.”
While in the synagogue, the students experienced the ritual of the Torah being taken out of the ark of the sanctuary, processed around the sanctuary, undressed and opened. They were given the chance to see the opened scroll along with the Hebrew written in it.
“I really liked the scrolls at the synagogue,” Pallen said. “It was so significant to be able to read from and even hold them.” Students at the synagogue also got the chance to read from the congregation’s prayer book, hear part of a Jewish worship song used during Friday night services and learn about the different aspects of Reformed Jewish worship.
Freshman Nathan Price also found the experience at the synagogue to be enriching.
“I learned that this particular branch of Judaism does not believe in a literal heaven or hell,” Price said. “Instead, they believe we are called to live a good life and do good works.”
Price’s favorite part of the trip was visiting the Anglican church.
“Even though a building is nice to have, the stuff on the inside, like the relics, architecture, layout and the artwork is what makes it even more special,” Price said. “In the Anglican church we visited, the symbolism all came together, and different things represented historical parts of Christianity.”
One of these historical things was the presence of “kneelers” on the backs of pews that allow congregants to kick them out for a stool to kneel on from the pew. Students were challenged by Father Marcus Emmons, the priest of the church, to sweep the pews out with one foot and come down to kneel on them all in one motion.
At the Anglican Church, Father Marcus exposed students to an Anglican view of the psalms of lament and imprecation (wishing justice on one’s enemies), and indulged the students in melodically reading one of these psalms aloud as they do in service.
“Hearing him reading these ‘Sad Psalms’ was really intriguing,” Pallen said. “I learned about the significance of reading these within the Anglican church.”
Students learned much about sacred spaces and what it means for something to be sacred while on the trip.
“Even though we only traveled to Hot Springs, there is such a unique and distinct way of worship within each of the places we visited,” Pallen said. “I was glad to be a part of the group that went to observe that.”