For the Christian reconciliation is a daily task. We need constantly to be reconciled to each other.
Every day we die to each other through doubt, mistrust, misunderstanding, and selfishness. Every day we need to rise again through forgiveness of each other. Not forgiveness in the sense of forgetting what happened yesterday, but rather forgiveness in the sense of creating today the conditions which will help us grow as a community in spite of the difficulties.
Forgiveness and reconciliation are essentially community tasks. It is only when we can forgive each other that we can begin to understand God’s forgiveness of us. God does not sanctify us in spite of the world. He sanctifies us through the world. The community does not take on the task of reconciliation because the priest does not have the time. The priest cannot do what the community must.
Before we begin to look at the design of a reconciliation space we need to look at the kinds of spaces which enable us to be reconciled to each other. We need to begin with our own culture. New Zealand is not like any other country. To suggest that we can learn from overseas is to miss the point that first we must learn from ourselves.
Where do we feel at ease. Some people are open only in a group situation; some people are only open in a one to one relationship. Some people are only open when they have had a drink or two; others become morose and introverted when they have a drink. Some people relax in an atmosphere of affluent luxury; others are repulsed by it. Some people, by habit, only relax when they can light up a cigarette. Some people need a feeling of enclosure and intimacy. The ability to ponder and reflect and grow comes only when the rest of the world has gone to bed, the hour is late, the day’s work is done, and the silence returns to God. Others prefer to sit on a mountain in the sun with the world spread out beneath them because there they can feel aware of man’s relationship to man, and man’s relationship to the world and God.
All these situations can be recreated in a reconciliation space. It is easier to create the space than it is to recognise that the needs of others are different from your own.
In creating the spaces we are completing the incarnation. We are recognising the sacred in the world. To create a sacred space you need to begin not with God but with man. Reading a book on theology may not be as much use as watching a man seeking the reconciliation of the community in the pub.
The next step might be to ask how our homes are designed to make reconciliation a daily event. The inability of the three-bedroom bungalow to accommodate complex relationships suggests that it assumes that conflicts have been overcome, rather than that they need to be overcome each day.
Then, and only then, can we begin to look at the creation of a sacred space which will sanctify a world which we already know.
Before we reach for our hammer and nails we need to feel that people are coming to us because they want to grow.
I remember someone saying something about being reconciled to our fellow men before we come to be reconciled to God. But of course He really did not understand our problem.
First published in Liturgy in 1976
with the title "An architect’s approach to the design of a reconciliation space".