Your Family Altar: A WNM Addendum

(This can be a stand-alone article in many aspects– it can be read as a small window into Autistic spirituality, or as a guide for orthodox Lutherans on setting up holy space at home. However, this is meant to be a supplement to the Weep No More self-help guide.)

In my guide, I suggested setting up a physical Family Altar (or holy space) for daily devotional life. The purpose is to maintain and re-establish your connection with God. For those who were affected adversely, this is a good way to hold on to your unity with Christ while you seek healing. You will NOT find complete healing outside of Christ.

As an Autistic woman, sometimes I take things literally and building holy space allows me to focus upon God in concrete ways. Some people would interpret building an Altar as a metaphor and set time for devotions and hymns. I understood holy space as physical as well. I can understand things if I can hold the object in my hands or see it visually. There is also the kinetic aspect as well, like kneeling or crossing oneself or lighting a candle.

Setting up physical holy space is flexible. It can be a small closet…or a console table on a wall…or even a corner in your bedroom. It can be as portable as a linen cloth over a end table with a small cross and a candle or a more permanent structure.
One person I knew made his home altar using a bookcase. In my case, it is a small corner in my bedroom.


(Image Description: An home altar at a corner of a room. On a wall, there is a crucifix and two shelves. On the top shelf there is a small incense burner. The bottom shelf has a candle and prayer beads. In front of the home altar is a kneeling chair. Next to the kneeling chair is a basket holding devotional books. To the right of the home altar is a window with the Kentucky state flag over it.)

As you see, my altar is simple, just two shelves and a crucifix. I added the kneeling chair as I have a bum knee from playing Kinect on XBox years ago.

1) Determine if you need a physical holy space, and if so, what size. I live in a small apartment. I think more concretely. A small physical space to remind me to pray would help me.
2) Make sure the whole household can gather around the space. Since I live alone, I have no issues with privacy, so I can set up a space in my bedroom instead of a small closet. I find small closets constricting and since I have lots of work clothes, space is at a premium.
3) Find an area that you feel comfortable in. For me, my living room is not an optimal place as it is full of horse racing stuff, and I do not want to be distracted by Gunnevera and Songbird. I also saw the living room as “general access” space in which I entertain guests and do common things. The bedroom is more “inner sanctum”, and I do not want my guests to be disturbed or unsettled by my expression of personal devotion.
4) Throw away your “Romaphobia”, recognise that the Early Church and beyond used art and icons for their physical devotion. I have seen stuff in Hobby Lobby, like plaques of Bible verses and word quotes like “#Blessed” on pillows and the like. The Calvinist roots of American Protestantism shifted the devotional art from iconic portrayals to printed words. You know that you are not ascribing power in an idol, so do not panic.
5) Take advantage of the Internet and procure your art and supplies. Confessional Lutheranism has artists and creatives who sells religious art and goods. Ad Crucem has very nice items for your altar.
6) Get a small basket and fill it with doctrinally sound materials. You will NOT find these at the local Christian bookstore. Ask around in your Confessional group for good suggestions. For starters, you need a Bible and Luther’s Small Catechism.
7) Set time to pray in the morning and/or the evening. Make it a habit. Follow the form in the Small Catechism and then pray for your needs.

As a widow, it is much easier to set this up without someone questioning your spirituality. Those who are without spouses can pull this off the best, in my opinion. It is like you are given a blank check to express your piety. I really hope that those in families would be encouraged to set holy space up. And if it have to be metaphorical due to family dynamics, there is no shame. God knows your faith and He will sustain you.