Nicola Coombe writes: Did you see, or hear about, the red liquid altar at last year’s ordination? It shocked me. Too late to change or protest, there it was. A huge glass bowl of dark red liquid, in the middle of the altar.

That moment – not in control, somewhat freaked out, now even more anxious about speaking of our purpose to the gathered friends and family! – was a powerful gateway. It tumbled the faculty into feisty dialogue about altars and their potent power to impact the psyche in ways intended and not intended.

This solstice time has been ‘altar-full’ for me. To me altars are social action, prayer, alive liminal space. Some say “altars are just make-up, all cosmetic and froth”. I say they will us into the space between worlds, liminal space, if we dare.

On Thursday this week I sat around an orange cloth, bright with star-shaped candles, surrounded by seven of our ‘Mystery and Mastery’ Explorers, sharing a ‘Close to Home’ Convocation in London. Tears were shed as a card taken from a deck on this altar directly addressed the shock of an animal whose death had been witnessed on the road the night before by one of those gathered.

On Saturday last week my husband’s mother stopped breathing after a jagged journey with Alzheimers. It was like the pull and push of a giant ocean, over a two week period, negotiating the freeing of the spirit that lived in the temple of her strong body. I experience the altar for Patricia in our lounge at home weaving a field of communication and sense-making for me. It is dynamic, and a place of steady presence, holding her process and our communication within that, as our daily lives swirl on, and as we tenderly find our way in this time.

On Friday (24 June) as the UK referendum result axed the population down the middle, I found myself wandering numbly around a supermarket. A huge red candle drew my attention. I lit it at home as an act of prayer and protest and surrender, and to create an altar for this day of change. And it brought me full circle to the bold and disturbing ordination altar and its powerful teaching.

At the ordination, as Christopher Marcus spoke to those freshly blessed, he explained the intention of the pool of red liquid. It was to remind every one of us that underneath our thin covering of skin is blood. The same colour blood, independent of the skin and its heavily laden histories.

The power of this particular altar has continued to work into my psyche. I am grateful for the courage and confidence of my colleagues, and for the vision and creativity they brought in that day. And I urge that the message of the blood red altar be carried into the blood red candle, and into your own heart space right now, at this sorely needed time.

Underneath our diversity is the same red blood. And at the centre of all our altars is the potent Presence of Life – call it Love or God – waiting to co-create with us. May we dare ourselves into relationship.

See you at 11.58

  1. Profile photo of Janey Verney

    thank you for this inspiring writing dear Nicola – I feel your journey round these altars, you have evoked them for me . Thank you for the red blood reminder of the power of altars
    I also want to say you are in my prayers at this time of your mother-in-law passing
    love and blessings to you and your family
    Janey xxxx

  2. Profile photo of Nicola Coombe

    Thanks Janey. They are such such powerful spaces, if we tend them…
    thanks for your thoughts too re my mum in law. Its a strong process…ongoing.
    You’re in my thoughts – with love x

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