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Berakah Award—Frank Kazmarcik, Robert Rambush, and Richard Vosko—and Ed Sovik, first recipient of the Academy’s Godfrey Diekmann Award.3 Three simple questions frame the rest of my reflections.

Is Anyone Talking about Space and Place? Over the course of the last half century there has been an amazing growth, almost an explosion, of studies about space and place in many disciplines. Commentators commonly note what they call the “spatial turn” taken in the social sciences. Sigurd Bergmann, a professor of religious studies in Norway, writes that the same “spatial turn” is occurring in theology.4 To illustrate that expanding focus we need only name some of the disciplines that have addressed the question of space and place. For example:5 liturgics and liturgical history;6 biblical studies;7 spirituality;8 theology;9 theology and culture;10 and in the human sciences: anthropology;11 architecture;12 aural architecture;13 cartography and geography;14 history of architecture;15 history of church art and architecture;16 history of religion;17 phenomenology of architecture;18 philosophical poetics;19 proxemics;20 and semiotics.21 This list could also go on. I cannot help but see in this burgeoning array of studies a parallel to the buildup of studies of ritual in the social sciences that reached a critical mass in the 1960s and 1970s and led to the development of the multidisciplinary field of ritual studies. From the studies on space and place I have begun to learn a great number of things.

What Have I Learned About Space and Place? In summary fashion, let me name the following homespun themes. They surely need a far more nuanced explanation than can be given here. § I have learned to think of space as vast and unbounded. I have learned that space becomes place when it is occupied by an object, by people, when it is identified with what takes place there. Think of the phrases we use. “Put everything in its place”; “save a place for me”; “the home place”; “no place like home”; “displaced”; “misplaced”; “first place in the standings.” Liturgical space is the place of worship, a place of gathering, praising, praying, a place for a holy people to do holy things. § I have also learned that our bodies place us in this world. Our body-place is where we are, live, and act. Bodies circumscribe us, but they also enable us to go out to other places and people. In so doing they make it possible to transcend our physical boundaries, to go beyond ourselves, to go out to others through sight, hearing, movement, and touch. They also make it possible to welcome others into our place through those same means, so that together we become a “we.” A room may suffice for an individual, a home houses a family. Plenary Sessions 35

North American Academy of Liturgy Proceedings 2014  
North American Academy of Liturgy Proceedings 2014  

The North American Academy of Liturgy (NAAL) ( is an ecumenical and interreligious association of liturgical sc...