There’s just something about them. With their high, vaulted ceilings, formal sanctuaries like Duke Chapel and any number of cathedrals I’ve visited are designed to generate a sense of personal smallness that helps one feel a bit of awe and wonder that is enhanced by the glow of stained glass windows and the pattern of shadows on the floor.
Pulpits in such places tend to be elevated and topped by an elaborate sounding board designed to help project the speaker’s voice in the days before microphones. The sounding board at Duke Chapel is in the shape of a tall spire, pointing upward, as if to remind the speaker that his or her words are being heard by God as well as the congregation.
Like many similar chapels, the one at Duke includes a couple of wooden mice, as a reminder that God hears any prayer, even one whispered so softly that only a mouse could hear it. The mouse in this much-enlarged cell phone image is atop a speaker on the left side of the chancel.
The nice thing about sacred spaces — whether in a majestic cathedral, a rural church, or a beautiful outdoor setting — is that you don’t even have to whisper a prayer: when struck by God’s presence, your soul does it for you.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.