THE RT REV AND RT HON LORD CAREY OF CLIFTON
Former Archbishop of Canterbury
Wells is such a glorious place: the tiniest city in England.
We define holiness in terms of places where God speaks to us, where we’re called forth to serve him or we’re taken down into a deeper level. That’s why Wells for me is so significant. I look at the water coming out of the well and trickling down the main street and say, ‘That’s just like God’s love. It’s like the Holy Spirit from the day of Pentecost sweeping through the centre and touching lives.’ That for me is holiness. Holiness is very difficult to define, but it’s a bit like food. Once you’ve tasted it, you know what it is.
As you look down into the well, you can see the water coming up from the ground; water that comes from the Mendip Hills. Most people probably don’t realise that in the late 15th century Bishop Beckington built a pumping station at this spring, to give water to people in the city.
For me, this is a wonderful expression of the living water that Jesus spoke about in John 7, rising up in you and giving eternal life. It is the idea of the Holy Spirit gushing through us and gushing through the world and creating new things; innovating, energising and giving hope for future generations.
BARONESS CAROLINE COX
Cross-bench member of the House of Lords and founder of the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART)
I’ve chosen this very special place because here, on the west front of the abbey, there are statues commemorating some of our modern day-martyrs. I think it’s so important that we do not forget our modern-day martyrs. We need to honour heroes and heroines of our faith.
I believe that there are more Christian martyrs today than ever before. There were more martyrs in the last century than in the previous centuries. We must pay tribute. We have to respect and honour them, learn from them, be inspired and challenged by them, but praise God for their faith, and remember that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.
Holiness is something that you witness in people of faith and reverence, and when they are in a certain place, often that place becomes imbued with part of that feeling of holiness. We find it in ancient churches where you feel that the walls are almost saturated with prayer. People have prayed there for centuries.
We also find holiness in the people that it’s our privilege to be with on those frontlines of faith and freedom. They are people of enormous grace and faith and dignity and courage; they are miracles of grace.
Business manager, Meribel Ski Chalets
Le Pointe du Buchet, in the Three Valleys, France
The Pointe du Buchet is the highest point in what is known as the Three Valleys, but is in fact the four valleys of Orelle. It stands at 3,420m. I have had regular times of prayer up there. There’s the tranquillity of skiing off-piste and then finding a spot where there is just you and God. There is an amazing vista over the Italian Alps with Mont Blanc behind you. The majesty of God’s creation surrounds you; the wind is blowing around your ears.
For me, in terms of holy experiences, it is about finding solitude and having that alone time with God. Jesus retreated up a mountain alone to pray; we all need that kind of space.
You can see God’s [awesomeness] in all things – some people see it in architecture – but for me, it’s the magnitude and size of the mountains that points to a creator. It’s a simple apologetic; but it couldn’t all have been caused by two atoms coming together.
REV SALLY HITCHINER
Coordinating Anglican chaplain and interfaith adviser at Brunel University and founder of Diverse Church
St Paul’s Cathedral
This is a place that has had great significance for me personally throughout my ministry. I was ordained at St Paul’s and go back there regularly. I find it a deeply sacred space in the middle of a very secular setting.
Even before I was ordained I used to go to St Paul’s on my day off. During my curacy I used to bounce between the Tate Modern and St Paul’s for stimulation and reflection and prayer. I love the way that St Paul’s is in the middle of the city. It’s feels owned by London, but yet is a place that is authentically about God.
It says on the door of St Paul’s: ‘This is none other than a house of God, this is the gate of heaven.’ I think that is true in the sense that all the Church, wherever we are, can be an icon of heaven. We’re supposed to be a doorway that people can come through and find God. We don’t always do that well, but that’s our task – to try and be a doorway, to help people to find God and his kingdom.
I’ve gone on a journey through my life from believing that holiness is separateness, to believing that holiness is about being sacred but with others, in the mess of society. St Paul’s for me is a holy place, because you can hear the hustle and bustle of the tourists and life going on outside; and the fact that it’s situated in the financial district – probably one of the most morally compromising areas of the UK, and yet, here it is. It’s here and present to remind people of God and help people to find God within that mess.
Former director of Micah Challenge and former head of the Evangelical Alliance
The building I’ve chosen is Wesley’s Chapel, but also Wesley’s house, where so much of early Methodism was shaped and crafted in fellowship. I’m not strictly a Methodist myself,
"THE MAJESTY OF GOD’S CREATION SURROUNDS YOU; THE WIND IS BLOWING AROUND YOUR EARS"
but no theology is an island and so Pentecostalism and its own tradition of holiness has drawn very deeply from Wesley and his teachings on sanctification and holiness. ‘Without holiness no one shall see God’, one of his favourite texts, was grafted right in the womb of Black Pentecostalism.
I first came to Wesley’s chapel about 20 years ago. The last time that was really meaningful for me was around eight to ten years ago. I met Leslie Griffiths, who is a senior minister here and a member of the House of Lords, and it was a very special experience for me. Leslie took me on a personal tour of the house. What was really moving, and what makes this one of the very special holy places for me, was that Leslie finished the tour in Wesley’s prayer room. He said: ‘This is where Methodism was birthed and sustained.’ There was a real sense of the poignancy and power of prayer which I still felt alive and well in that room. It has remained very special to me.
Inside the chapel itself, it says: ‘Discover this historic place, known the world over as the Cathedral of Methodism. May you experience his presence in this house and leave with
"WHEREVER WE ARE, WE CAN BE AN ICON OF HEAVEN"
new inspiration and hope.’ I did and I do experience God’s presence in this house. It’s not only the atmosphere, it’s not just the sense of this being a very special and holy place, but it’s also the lingering conviction that Wesley left; that holiness must be combined with social engagement.
AMY BOUCHER PYE
Speaker, editor and author of Finding Myself in Britain: Our Search for Faith, Home & True Identity (Authentic Media)
A holy place for me is in Killarney, Ireland. One time we stayed in a cottage by a lake, with a big hill nearby. As the sun was setting I was praying and reflecting, and I felt the whisper of God, even in the waves. I’m no pantheist, but the Lord felt so near in creation that I can see why people might turn to that belief system.
In that place, I felt God’s love washing over me and I glimpsed a smidgen of the glory of God’s creation. He made the rocks and the lakes; he made us in his image, and thus we are the pinnacle of his creation. If we open our eyes to the wonder in creation, we can become open to God’s love. These experiences can blow us away.
At the same time, I believe holy places can be anywhere – in my study or living room, for instance, when I am praying with someone and God meets us amazingly. This is the tension we need to manage – we might feel like we have to go on a retreat or to a church to meet with God, but he’s not limited geographically. I’ve had amazing times with God in Ireland, but equally I have experienced incredible times with the Lord praying with people in my home.