Sacred Design

An address by Murshida Carol Weyland Conner before the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, February 21, 2012

Good day to you, Supervisors.

Throughout the world, people design their churches to reflect the principles of their faith. The cruciform design of Christian churches reflects the cross as Christianity’s central symbol. Buddhist pagodas represent the Buddha’s throne. Hindu temples represent both the universe and the interior world. Many sacred buildings incorporate domes, steeples, and towers. Others add seven-tiered roofs or carvings of divine figures.

Yet there is one architectural principle common to all these faiths. Each design is intended to express the central tenets and beliefs of that faith. In the case of Sufism Reoriented, we have designed our new sanctuary to be a physical manifestation of our faith, and each design element has spiritual significance for us.

In our church’s design, the circular shape of the visible sanctuary reflects the curvilinear form of the emblem of our founder, Meher Baba. Like God, the circle has no beginning and no end. This expresses eternity, the eternal life in God the Infinite. The circle is also recognized as a symbol of unity since all points on the circle are equidistant from the center, as all beings are in relation to God. This symbol embodies our belief in the essential unity of Creation and the Universal Love at the heart of all life.

Our gently sloping saucer domes also reflect this important symbol of the circle. Equally important, when worshipping beneath the tranquil and uplifting interior spaces created by a dome, the heart awakens for prayer, meditation, and communion with God.

For this reason, domes are found in houses of worship everywhere. Baptist churches in Washington, D C, and San Francisco have central domes. Some of the most beautiful buildings in all of Christendom – like St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy – feature multiple domes. One can also see domes on Jewish synagogues, Buddhist temples, Islamic mosques, and Hindu temples.

Our sanctuary will be clad in soft white marble. It is white for a reason. The color white symbolizes purity, unity, and inclusiveness. This is suggested by the rainbow, whose colors blend together to produce white light. Although there are widely diverse streams of life in Creation, the color white represents our belief in their essential oneness.

These sacred symbols have been used to design a structure that meets one of our core objectives in building this new sanctuary – to bring our diverse spiritual activities together under one roof.

It is a tenet of our faith that when we come together to worship and glorify God in our sanctuary – with the Prayer Hall at its sacred center – the atmosphere of the building is charged with the force of divine radiance, love, and grace. Episcopalians say that in such a space “our souls go deep into the rivers of the Spirit.”

A core belief of Sufism Reoriented is that our spiritual mission will be carried out most successfully when members of our congregation can perform their spiritual devotions and related duties together in the harmonious, unified, beneficent atmosphere of the sanctuary that streams from God’s love.

In summary, members of Sufism Reoriented believe that on this marvelous journey toward Beloved God, sacred external structures are critical to support the internal processes of spiritual growth.

We have designed a church building that intentionally embodies our most sacred beliefs and supports our spiritual practices. It reaches to our hearts.

Thank you.