When you hear someone speak of “the grove,” what does that bring to mind? Perhaps it is the space out behind the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Gwinnett that we refer to as “the grove.” Perhaps it calls to mind one of the Earth mystery groups, a Druid group, that has been meeting and holding seasonal rituals for the community for most of the last decade at UUCG. Perhaps it conjures other images in your mind from literature or from your own experiences out in nature.
“Grove” is a uniquely English word with no known cognates. The Old English graf means grove or copse. A copse is a small wooded area. The Latin words nemus and lucus indicate a space within a forest that opens up to the sky. Lucus implies that light comes in from above. The old Irish word for grove indicates that the realm of the divine hovers above these places in the woods.
From the words alone, we begin to see: space, rooted in nature, open to the sky, connected to sacred things. These ancient and modern spaces join the sky with the earth and whatever human beings bring into them: offerings, needs, the search for solace, quiet, peace, a place to challenge the gods and vent human suffering and anguish–to name a few. Our own grove at UUCG meets these descriptions. It is a space within the woods. It does open to the sky. People have been going there over the past ten years for ritual and personal needs, to honor, to seek, to help, to grieve, to be quiet and to center themselves.
As we explore the meaning of “The Grove,” I wonder what sacred spaces you know and return to? Are they a kind of grove for you? Perhaps you have a literal grove that you visit, or that you once visited. How do you find and enter sacred space these days? If you had to find sacred space in your day today, how would you do that? What would it look like? What does it mean for space, any space, to be “sacred?”