Sacred Space

Nate Oman suggested I tell you a little about the Sacred Space conference we are planning with the Columbia Religion Department and the Auburn Theological Seminary to help note the dedication of the Manhattan New York Temple. It originated last spring when I asked Robert Millet, Richard L. Evans Professor of Religious Understanding at BYU if he would be interested. The Evans chair has money for sponsoring just such enterprises. He thought it worthwhile and so I talked to the chair of the Columbia Religion Department. They are wary about denominational programs but after making various pleas and taking advantage of the fact that the chair lives downstairs from us, we received their approval. Meanwhile I ran across the Auburn Theological Seminary, an independent group that is embedded within the Union Theological Seminary building. Auburn does not train students, but they specialize in multi-faith education. Though Presbyterian in origin, Auburn’s director of such programs is a Jewish rabbi.
He thought a tour of the temple before it is closed would be the icing on the cake.

The organizing committee, made up of Wayne Proudfoot from the Columbia Religion Department, Karen Franck an architecture professor, David Kraemer, a Professor of Talmud at Jewish Theological Seminar, and myself lit on the topic of Sacred Space in the Modern City, since the Mormon Temple is smack in the middle of New York, just across the street from Lincoln Center and housed in a standing building. How do you make space sacred under such circumstances? We also had in mind the city’s and the nation’s effort to sanctify Ground Zero where the secular city has to borrow from religious sacred space to properly honor the site. All of that finds its way into this program.

Some of you may know Jonathan Z. Smith at Chicago, a slightly eccentric but brilliant specialist on sacred space. Kenneth T. Jackson was President of the New-York Historical Society when 9/11 occurred and was prominent in collecting memorabilia. He is a person of a large heart and religious spirit, one of those persons who is more saintly than the saints. Paul Anderson has been writing a book on Mormon architecture for many years. Some of you may have heard his presentations on individual Mormon temples at the Mormon History Association. Following Paul’s talk I will take the seminar on a VIP tour of the temple. By the way, our own John Lundquist who has written on global temples will comment on Smith’s paper.

Here is the program for your delectation.

“Sacred Space in the Modern City”
Auburn Theological Seminary
May 4, 2004

10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. – Religious Perspectives on Sacred Space

Keynote: The Topography of the Sacred

Jonathan Z. Smith – University of Chicago – Divinity School

Robert O. Anderson Distinguished Service Professor of the Humanities in the College and the Committees on the Ancient Mediterranean World and on the History of Culture; Associate faculty in the Divinity School

Jonathan Z. Smith (Ph.D. Yale University) is a historian of religions whose research has focused on such wide-ranging subjects as ritual theory, Hellenistic religions, nineteenth-century Maori cults, and the notorious events of Jonestown, Guyana. Some of his works include Map is Not Territory; Imagining Religion: From Babylon to Jonestown; and To Take Place: Toward Theory in Ritual. In his book Drudgery Divine: On the Comparison of Early Christianities and the Religions of Late Antiquity, he demonstrates how four centuries of scholarship on early Christianities manifest a Catholic-Protestant polemic.

Followed by respondents representing multiple religious traditions.

12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Lunch
(Auburn will try to meet all dietary requests)

1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Making Space Sacred: the Modern Latter-day Saint Temple

Paul Anderson – Brigham Young University

Paul L. Anderson, Head of Design at the Brigham Young University Museum of Art in Provo, Utah, is an architect, exhibition designer, and architectural historian. He received his B.A. From Stanford University and his Master of Architecture from Princeton University. He has lectured and published articles about the history of Mormon buildings in the context of American religious architectural traditions. He is currently working on a book, Mormon Moderne: New Directions in Latter-day Saint Architecture, 1890-1955, exploring the changing Latter-day Saint architectural identity during a period of Mormon assimilation into mainstream American society.

3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Visit to Manhattan Mormon Temple

7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Sacred Space in the Modern City – Public Event

Featured panelists:

Karen Franck
Professor of Urban Environments
New Jersey School of Architecture

David Kraemer
Professor of Talmud
Jewish Theological Seminary

Kenneth T. Jackson
Professor of History
Columbia University

Kenneth T. Jackson, Jacques Barzun Professor of History and the Social Sciences, specializes in American social and urban history. He received his B.A. from the University of Memphis in 1961 and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1966. His publications include The Ku Klux Klan in the City, 1915–1930 (1967), Cities in American History (1972), Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (1985), Silent Cities: The Evolution of the American Cemetery, with Camilo Vergara (1990), and, as editor The Encyclopedia of New York City (1995). He is presently working on two books to be entitled Gentlemen’s Agreement: Race, Class, and Differential Development in Newark, White Plains, and Darien, 1840–1990 and The Road to Hell: Transportation Policy and the Decline of the United States.

Please RSVP to Christian Martinez: [email protected]
(212) 662-4315

6 comments for “Sacred Space

  1. April 18, 2004 at 1:26 pm

    Speaking of sacred space and temples, just what level of encryption does it take to make a space sacred?

    Thinking of the temple dedication broadcasts which need to be sacred spaces, but which are not secret by any means (after all, the tapes are saved for later play after the dedication without any limits — consider D&C 109).

  2. Fred Astaire
    April 18, 2004 at 3:16 pm

    will accommodations be available? (perhaps through the seminary?)

  3. Kaimi
    April 20, 2004 at 3:19 pm

    I should note that a member of this blog has introduced the term “sacred space” into fields of law.

    See .

  4. Mike
    April 20, 2004 at 4:46 pm

    and in a completely different manner than I expected.

    If I lived in New York, I would go to this- it sounds great

  5. Jettboy
    February 17, 2005 at 9:04 pm

    So, how did this turn out? I really want to know. Is any of this published? Maybe someone can do a synopsis of the event.

  6. annegb
    February 17, 2005 at 10:00 pm

    Brother Millett is my hero. He wrote an awesome book called, I forgot, let me check, Steadfast and Immoveable. One of my very favorites.

    Like I said, my daughter and I are going to be in New York in April. We’re going to go to church at the temple ward. We will smell like smoke because we’re staying with smoking, but wonderful friends on Long Island. Maybe I’ll meet some of you.

Comments are closed.