Creating Accessible, Interesting Sacred Environments, Insights from Master Craftsman Daniel Wheeler (Part 2 of 3)

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daniel wheelerLos Angeles’ Daniel Wheeler has 25 years of experience crafting sacred objects and environments. His specialities include: Altars, Arks, Urns, Chapels, Meditation Rooms, and Contemplative Gardens. He won the 2014 Faith and Form award for Religious Art and Architecture for his prayer chapel design at Campbell Hall, a Los Angeles K-12 Private School.

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We sat down with Daniel to infuse his insight and inspiration into our own work creating safe and holy space in the mission fields of our own networks and neighborhoods.

Check out these two local projects where Daniel designed and manufactured sacred objects and spaces attuned to the needs and opportunities of the context and audience.

1. Prayer Wall – St. Mark’s, Glendale, CA

St Marks Prayer Wall Long ShotIn coordination with the leadership at St. Mark’s, Daniel created an active, communal prayer experiment for the congregation.

A grid of numbered squares is etched into a large white panel in the chapel. On a desk nearby, small cards are stacked, each corresponding to an area of the grid. Visitors handwrite a prayer on the back of a card and then affix it to the panel. Eventually, a pixelated iconic image of Jesus Christ will appear, made of the amalgamated prayers.

It was a little different from the normal liturgy, but not so outside of their comfort zone that it presented an obstacle to participation. The amalgamated prayers become an image of a sacred heart, a metaphor for the community. “If they tie that into their sermons,” Daniel says, “then it could work well. Don’t know—it’s an experiment.” The explanation of the wall is this: “That Christ appears in the collective prayers of those worshipping, appearing as part and parcel of the many voices that ask His help. He is there in every small still voice, even if one cannot discern the overall pattern. And He is there to be seen when all those voices are added together but their individual words are lost in the thrum.”

 

2. Prayer Chapel — Campbell Hall Episcopal School, Los Angeles, CA

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Daniel describes the chapel this way: “This multi-faith chapel is designed to “set the table of worship” for each member of the school community, without sacrificing the potent symbolism of its diverse religious practices. It is an intimate, human-scaled place, where individual personal experience is paramount. Design choices are meant to be more effective than notable; material choices and imagery meant to act upon the visitor, to be felt rather than read. Tactility, sensuality and simplicity turn the experience inward and away from the world outside without completely losing contact with it. All effort is given to enhance and focus the natural beauty of the light in the room.”

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Up-close stone work wall whose gaps hold folded prayers.

Each detail of the design considers how to facilitate the person’s connection to the sacred.

As we go about carefully considering how to co-create these spaces for those in our own networks and neighborhoods, we can hold up Daniel’s examples as evidence that anyone from any background can connect with God through highly unique and profoundly personal routes. We can do our best to help facilitate that process by knowing each other well and creatively experimenting with available means and methods.

 

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