Caring for Souls by Curating Sacred Space
It was my first week of seminary when I heard that peculiar word “curate,” while listening to a group of students chat about their futures. Standing there, I learned that the noun “curate” is a traditional title for a parish priest, and comes from the Latin word cura, which means care. It signifies that the priest is invested with the care of souls. Ordained for 5 years, this definition rings truer now than it did on that burnt patch of July Texas grass in 2012.
Yet, it is not only the responsibility of the parish priest to care for the souls of God’s people; it is also the responsibility of the Church. If an ordained priest is a curate, then the Church is The Curate. As the body of Christ, our living Church is called to care for the souls of the world. This is surely how we “with truly thankful hearts show forth praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to Christ’s service, and by walking before Christ in holiness and righteousness all our days.” If the Church is called to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ, and be a vehicle of reconciliation, justice, peace, and love, then the Church must care for all souls.
Caring for the souls of people is obviously complex, and the “how to” of the work is beyond the scope of one blog piece. There are ample resources available to train and equip the Church for the varied aspects and implications of this truth. Faithful people have been writing on this subject for a long time. My offering to the conversation is specific and based on my experience with St. Isidore, a church plant I pastor in Spring, Texas, that is structured as a network of missional communities. Through this work I learned that in order for the Church to care for all God’s people, we must use the word curate as a verb as well as a noun.
The verb “curate,” unlike the noun, is not a relatively new word to most vocabularies. This word immediately recalls a museum employee working intentionally to create and care for space. To “curate” involves the creation of a space for something to be seen as beautiful and important in relationship to other things. My sister-in-law curates in a museum, and this is very intentional work. Curated spaces do not simply happen by chance. Beautiful and important objects are fully known because someone intentionally designed the space to admire them.
As the Church, we care for the souls of God’s people by curating spaces for them to be seen and known as beautiful and holy in relationship with God and others. We are not simply called to gather people together, we are called to gather people together in a way that allows them to experience Christ. This may seem obvious to people who understand that the “how we gather” of our liturgy is important, and that the “what we do,” does not encompass the fullness of the liturgy. Christians have been curating sacred space to encounter God for a long time, and this is at the heart of St. Isidore missional communities.
We gather in homes, a bar, a laundromat, restaurants, and a boxing gym, but we never gather carelessly. Missional communities cannot be a gimmick. Each St. Isidore community designs their gathering space with the intention of making both time and people sacred. The wisdom of our Episcopal heritage teaches us how to set apart time and space, and we curate spaces for people to be seen and known as beautiful in relationship to God and each other. This may or may not include silence, chimes, incense, formal prayers, a Eucharist, a confession, et cetera. But it always includes a focused desire to draw people into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. The way we curate sacred space is limited only to our imagination. The goal is to create an experience where someone muses “I am not sure why, because I have been here before, but for some reason I feel like I need to take my shoes off.” In some missional communities, people do.
What would happen if we all intentionally curated spaces in the world for people to experience the reconciling love of Jesus Christ? If we intentionally crafted time and space where people knew their beauty in relationship to God and others? What would we find? I wonder if in these spaces we would find the Church more able to be The Curate?
 BCP, Morning Prayer Right II, page 101, General Thanksgiving. Paraphrased and altered to fit tense.
 BCP, Catechism, page 855
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