This week for Sunday Stills, the theme is churches, temples, and spiritual centers. In addition to some sights we visited in Utah, I’m sharing some images from my archives of churches, spiritual centers, and other sacred spaces.

Cross and palms

In the Beginning…

I spent a total of 31 years at a small evangelical church in Sacramento. I left in 1995 after the first 9 years due to the pastor’s disapproval of my divorce. Dude, it happens.

Valley Community Church Sacramento
Church remodeled in the early 1990s

Three years later a new pastor was hired and from 1998 until we moved in 2020, we attended the church. He just celebrated 25 years on April 2 as the pastor (a rare feat indeed). This pastor had relocated from Central California, having moved from Spokane, WA years before. To this day we still have a wonderful connection with him and his lovely family.

I just love the mood of this image. A happy family, kids are now grown.

The Newton Family, image from their 2010 Christmas card

From the day he began his ministry, he ends every service with this passage from Numbers 6:24-26, which begins “May the Lord Bless you and Keep You…” This was printed on the lobby wall for the 20th anniversary in 2018.

May the Lord Bless You and Keep You...
Numbers 6:24-26

At that same church, the women’s ministry was thriving and we spent many wonderful weekends at retreats about every 2-3 years. I didn’t know how special the last one I attended in May 2019 in Lake Tahoe would be. The retreat center in Tahoe’s Zephyr Cove boasted several places for meditation and quiet time.

chairs in Lake Tahoe
Be Still and Know

I couldn’t have known then about our desire to move from California a few months later, nor the pandemic that would close religious centers worldwide—ironically, just when we would need them the most.

Utah’s Spiritual Centers

LDS Temple near Salt Lake City
LDS Temple near Salt Lake City

“The day we find the perfect church, it becomes imperfect the moment we join it.” ― Charles H. Spurgeon

Salt Lake City’s downtown is home to the 35-acre Temple Square which houses the global headquarters of the Church of Latter-Day Saints’ main center. The temple was under construction, but we could still stroll the grounds.

Mormon Assembly Hall Salt Lake City
Assembly Hall, Temple Square Salt Lake City

Have you ever heard the world-renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing? This is the Tabernacle where they perform and boasts the 11,623 pipe organ as the backdrop. To the right, you can see some of the construction.

Mormon Tabernacle Building Salt Lake City
Tabernacle Building

A docent led us inside to hear an organist practice. What a thrill! You can see he is dwarfed by the immensity of the Tabernacle and pipe organ.

Imagine the choir filling the choir loft.

The 360-member choir sings a variety of well-known hymns and songs, including songs from Broadway and Disney. They’re well-known for US patriotic songs as well. But their version of the Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus might literally bring you to your knees!

Big Cathedral in a Small Town

A two-night stay in Helena, Montana was our final leg of the road trip. The Cathedral of St Helena was an easy walk from downtown Helena. We walked in through an unlocked door, and oops, a Catholic mass was happening!

Cathedral of Saint Helena
Cathedral of Saint Helena

Modeled by architect A.O. Von Herbulis after the Votive Church of the Sacred Heart in Vienna, Austria, the construction began on the cathedral in 1908, and held its first mass in November 1914, but still under construction until 1924. Source

Franz Xaver (aka FX) Zettler (1841-1916) was a German stained-glass artist who helped develop the “Munich style” of painting on large glass panels. Zettler’s most notable work adorns the St. Peter’s Basilica at Vatican City in Rome. The firm of FX Zettler crafted the window between 1908-1926, along with 58 other windows.

Stained glass in the Cathedral of Saint Helena

“It took years to finish installing all of the church’s 59 windows, which were hand-crafted in Bavaria and shipped to Montana.” Atlas Obscura

Nature’s Cathedrals

Some people seek their spiritual centers in nature.

Tuolumne Meadows, The high country of Yosemite National Park

“But no temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite. Every rock in its walls seems to glow with life…as if into this one mountain mansion Nature had gathered her choicest treasures.” — John Muir

For countless summers, my parents took us on 2-3-week camping trips to Yosemite National Park. It was a 500-mile drive from San Diego (California). Mom hated the heat so we always camped at 9980 ft elevation in Tuolumne Meadows near the Tioga Pass (Hwy 120). During the short summers, average temperatures ranged in the mid-30Fs at night and 70Fs during the day.

I probably spent at least 11 summers there with my parents. We loved to take the ranger-naturalist-led hikes, troop to the local lakes and rivers for fishing, enjoy sunsets on Lembert Dome and maybe catch a community campfire. And once in a while, enjoy a ranger-led star walk at 10pm.

Family enjoying a hike on mountain
Sunset Walk on Lembert Dome, Yosemite, later years

Tuolumne Meadows was our nature’s cathedral and we worshiped God’s amazing creation with each visit. Have I mentioned I have visited Yosemite 26 times?

“[Camping in Yosemite] was like lying in a great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man.” ― President Theodore Roosevelt

Cathedral Peak, looking southwest across Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite high country
Cathedral Peak (left), looking southwest across Tuolumne Meadows

As we drove into the park boundary, you could just begin to see the Cathedral Range of iconic mountains that rim Tuolumne Meadows.

Cathedral Peak was a nunatak (summit ridge) during the Tioga glaciation of the last ice age, the peak projected above the glaciers, which carved and sharpened the peak’s base while plucking away at its sides. NPS geology of Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite NP

Tuolomne Meadows Cathedral Range
Cathedral Peak Above My Head

Just above my head in the distance is Cathedral Peak. At an elevation of 10,916 feet above sea level, it’s a mountaineer’s dream.

“Never was a mountain mansion more beautiful, more spiritual; never was a moral wanderer more blessedly homed.” John Muir, Yosemite

Northern California’s Mt. Shasta and Arizona’s Sedona

Mt. Shasta has significant spiritual importance to the Native Americans who lived/live in Siskiyou County, similar to many monolithic mountains around the world. Mt Shasta was the home of the “harmonic convergence” in 1987.

October Mt Shasta
View of Mt Shasta in October

Over the years, less traditional/more new-age beliefs have sprung up around the mountain too, making it a magical place. (Valise Mag)

Mt-Shasta
Mt Shasta, A spiritual center?

Another spiritual center is Sedona, Arizona. Sedona is said to boast eight vortex sites with varying levels of energy. In these places, visitors report instances of healing, meditation, and positive thinking.

“A vortex is an invisible spot on Earth with a whirling and vibrating center of energy.” Source

On our last trip in 2021, we spied two vortex sites from the road. The first one you see upon entering Sedona is Bell Rock, visible from Hwy 179, which stands like a sentinel greeting visitors to Sedona.

Red rocks of Sedona
Bell Rock, Sedona, Arizona

Nearby are the Two Nuns, a view from the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Sources tell us that the energy of the vortex may be strongest inside the chapel.

Sedona, Orange or Red?
Two Nuns View from Chapel of the Holy Cross

We weren’t able to see the Chapel due to time constraints. The photo of the Chapel is courtesy of Pexels.

Photo by Ryan Hiebendahl on Pexels.com

“In God’s wildness lies the hope of the world.” — John Muir

Inspiring Photo Challenges This Week

Each week I find inspiration from my fellow bloggers’ photo challenges. I enjoy incorporating these into my Sunday Stills weekly themes.

How To Participate in Sunday Stills Photo Challenge

The Sunday Stills weekly-themed photo challenge is easy to join. You have all week to share and link your post. Comments from bloggers leaving their links are always appreciated.

  • Remember to title your blog post a little differently than mine.
  • Please create a new post for the theme or link a recent one.
  • Entries for this theme can be posted all week.
  • Tag your post “Sunday Stills.”
  • Don’t forget to create a pingback to this post so that other participants can read your post.
  • I also recommend adding your post’s URL to the comments.

This Week’s Featured Bloggers

Sunday Stills is a wonderful community of bloggers and photographers who desire to connect with one another. Below are this week’s links from bloggers who shared their photos of sacred spaces and places. I add these all week as new links are posted.

I am excited to see your versions of the sacred spaces and places you have visited.

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108 thoughts on “Sunday Stills: #Sacred Spaces — Churches, Temples and Spiritual Centers

  1. Religion is a fascinating subject. I love visiting the old cathedrals and admiring the architecture. When they built a new LDS Temple in northwest Phoenix, it was open to the public for a short time for tours. The craftsmanship was stunning. Another great post, Terri.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Ingrid! One of these days I want to travel in the UK and see the hundred of churches and gawk at the architecture, even the stone circles. Our encounter with the LDS center and docents was very positive–they are very welcoming to have you tour inside their facilities. That was cool for you to get to see the inside of a temple.

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    1. Ironically that pastor’s son filed for divorce soon after, Jodie. Many folks left that church then he retired and the new pastor came on board. A breath of fresh air! Ingrid also mentioned the LDS temple, that must have been a cool experience!

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  2. I am interested in your image of Assembly Hall in Temple Square. We were there in September 2021 and didn’t see the monument in front of the building as in your photo. It appears to have been removed and replaced by a garden.

    There is also a tall skyscraper in the block just south of the square that makes the image you have much more esthetically pleasing in a straight-on view. I shot from an angle to minimize the background clutter from the skyscraper. The image here: https://photobyjohnbo.wordpress.com/2023/01/29/cellpic-sunday-assembly-hall-in-temple-square/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, John! I took the first image, then realized there was a lot more to the assembly hall. This was our first time visiting, so I ended up gawking at everything. I thought Hans would have taken a pic of the temple construction since he kept looking at it. The entire grounds were very inviting, glad we walked around. Thanks for sharing your post too!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Now that I look at the angle you shot, it was hard to tell which part is the “front” of the hall. The statue is to the left as you walk in from the street, likely they limited entrances due to the construction.. The garden in your shot looks like it was late spring hence the full flowers! Yes your image with the modern building is gorgeous!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The statue in front (or side) is quite tall and has golden seagulls at the top. I didn’t get a great shot of it. No doubt there is a lot of ongoing construction in the area, just like we witnessed in much of SLC, especially heading toward the lake.

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  3. The pastor disapproving of your divorce showed a typical narrow minded attitude. Things are lightening up more these days, thank goodness.

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  4. Wow Terri, you really covered the gamut on this one! I was fascinated by the organ which I’d never heard of, and love that you included Sedona in this one. As for the previous pastor – maybe he was expressing his disappointment in what he knew was coming with is son?? One never knows what’s really happening in others’ lives. Glad he was replaced and the new pastor sounds like a true gem. Happy Sunday to you!

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    1. Thank you, Tina and happy Sunday! I had seen the Tabernacle choir perform on TV but to see the inside of it IRL is quite incredible. The sounds coming from the organist were enthralling–incredible acoustics!

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  5. This is the inside of St.Stephen’s Dom in Passau Germamy. It’s the largest pipe organ in Europe. The church is undergoing restoration but is still amazing even with scaffolding in place.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A beautiful post today, Terri. I loved the quotes from Spurgeon to Roosevelt, and of course, Muir’s quotes speak directly to my heart. The manmade churches are lovely. I enjoyed the stained glass and the Halleluiah Chorus always gives me chills. But Yosemite feels spiritual to me, as do places like Sedona, Shasta, the Tetons, and other places of natural majesty. Thanks for sharing some amazing photos and memories. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Diana! I thought I had more photos of churches from the trip, but then the idea of sacred outdoor spaces popped into my brain, and some research happened, LOL! John Muir always says it best. It really was a thrill to be inside the Tabernacle building even for a few moments. That one made my day!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Robbie! Isn’t that a great image of the pastor and his family? I had the actual postcard pinned up on my fridge, then my office bulletin board for years. I was happy to share new and old pics of Yosemite, Shasta and Sedona. There is something so soothing to the soul to sit quietly in nature and just listen to silence and perhaps other sounds of birds and water.

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  7. Terri,
    Helen and I attended a rehearsal of the Morman Tabernacle Choir a few years ago and were blown away. The performance was incredible. I look forward to their Christmas Concerts on PBS every year. I attached a picture of our church. I love our church and every member of the congregation. Thankfully, our services are online, so we can attend remotely when we travel. Your quotes this week are very moving. I wish we had spent more time in Yosemite. Have a great week. Joe

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    1. Hi Joe! Attending the rehearsal would have been life changing for me–how cool you got to witness that. Thanks for reminding me that MTC is featured on PBS–I’ll have to make a note of it. Our church in Sacramento was so dear to us when Pastor Newton came along in 1998. Finally a pastor who actually illuminated scripture! We’re still shopping for a local church here. Online service are very handy. Glad you liked the quotes, they seemed to work. Have a great week!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Well researched and great photos Terri. Given my Silent Sunday posts over the past couple of years have been churches, I might have one or two I’ll post later on 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. We have a temple near us but my understanding is only Mormons in good standing are allowed inside, which leaves me, a non-Mormon, literally on the outside. 😉. But I’ve seen some spectacular churches in Europe and beautiful stained glass can be found even in much humbler churches.

    What a joy to have been to Yosemite so often. My mom grew up in California and in these days, when they went camping in Yosemite or among the redwoods, you’d I didn’t have to make reservations and certainly not years in advance. The good old days in that sense.

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    1. You are correct that only Mormons may enter certain parts of the temple. Still it was awesome to step inside the tabernacle building. I also remember when you could show up in Yosemite, at least the lesser visited high country, and find a spot. The last time I set foot in Tuolumne meadows, was at the Tioga pass entrance during the first summer of the pandemic. Then you had to get a permit to enter which was back logged by months. We parked near the entrance and walked onto the meadow for a short distance. That summer we had planned to cast my mom’s ashes there but it wasn’t going to happen. We happened to be near there staying in Mammoth Lakes. I remember having to make a camping reservation for the valley back in 1990. Thanks, Janet 😁

      Liked by 1 person

  10. From Cathedrals to New England steepled churches and everything in between we here in the US have many different types of churches and spiritual places.
    I am glad that you included the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona. It’s one of my most favorite churches. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What a lovely collection of sacred sites – natural and manmade Terri! Those mountains and rocks are amazing. I’m glad you mentioned natural sites as I would have to say Uluru in the Northern Territory, Australia’s Centre is one such place. It is a spiritual and moving place which I’m so glad to have ben there.

    I’ve used an older post and a travel memory for my Sunday Stills with a Vincent Van Gogh and Dr Who connection.

    Vincent Van Gogh, Dr Who and a Church for #SundayStills

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Debbie! I’m glad you mentioned Uluru (of course I don’t have my own pic)–its well known that there are countless natural spiritual centers in the world. I suppose wherever someone feels a spiritual connection it becomes their sacred space.

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  12. Churches definitely have a very specific mood. I love visiting them, sitting down and just enjoy the peace and quiet. They are also remarkable examples of architecture, old and new. I loved your photos of the Yosemite National Park. So beautiful.

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  13. I’m listening to the choir as I reply. WOW – amazing! Your collection of sacred photos is so glorious. You made up for my bird post!! 😂😆 I’ve never been to the places you shared, so it was great to see the sites through your camera’s lens, and the words you shared describing what you remember made this post very special. I agree, it was so sad that churches closed when we needed each other the most. The relationships you formed with your church are precious and heart-warming!

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    1. Thank you, Shelley! I always appreciate a good choir. There are so many places in the world I still want to see to add to my sacred spaces collection, like Stonehenge and Uluru in Australia, and a lot more. I better get busy, LOL!

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    1. Happy to share, and amazed at what others have to share too, Kirstin 🙂 I was sad to discover that I didn’t have any images of Yosemite’s Chapel. But next time we visit Arizona, I want to see that Chapel of the Cross myself!

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  14. It must be fascinating to visit Salt Lake City and take in the scale of the area devoted to the Temple and associated buildings. How wonderful that your visit coincided with the organist’s practice! I loved the stained glass in St Helena too, but most of all I think I loved your reflections on Yosemite and Mount Shasta as places akin to cathedrals of nature, as that’s something I’ve sensed in such places too.

    Your theme is timely as I was already planning to post something about places of worship in Tirana, based on our recent visit there: https://www.toonsarah-travels.blog/sweet-freedoms-in-tirana/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Sarah, it was truly inspiring to visit Salt Lake and see how the Mormon Church began. One of my best friends is of the Mormon faith, so it’s interesting to understand her perspective and why so many Mormons want to move back to Utah (her words). I’m glad your post worked out with this theme. It may be a while before I get back to Yosemite, but there are so many other places to visit.

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      1. We think about possibly revisiting Yosemite one day but I’ve read it gets so much busier than it used to (we were there in 1991) and we worry we’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t live up to our memories because of the crowds.

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  15. Gorgeous photos Terri, especially beautiful Sedona. I have many photos from my visits there. The Tabernacle building is fascinating. Thanks for sharing your beauty and observances with us. ❤

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  16. Beautiful images of sacred places, Terri! I was all ready for a purple post this week, thinking I’d be early (ha!) Somehow, I got my wires crossed. Thanks for sharing your own spiritual journey. It’s wonderful that there are places to worship, either alone, with others, or when contemplating nature. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Wow, this is a popular post, Terri. You’ve got it all here. Your nature pictures are especially lovely. I love the picture of Bell Rock. It’s one of my favorite places. I never really understood what the Vortex meant. I mostly feel out of breath hiking around there, not so much energy, though I wish I did! We have been up to the chapel and inside for just a few minutes. Not enough to gather any energy either. When we took Cindy, it was so busy we just waited for her outside.

    On Sunday we visited the church where my pastor in Portland, Dale Galloway taught people to become preachers and leaders. I learned he passed away in 2021, but his wife still attends. We went to their church 50 years ago, LOL!

    I was 21. I asked him what I might read that would just tell me what Jesus had to say about life. He handed me a New Testament, and after reading that, I admitted that yep, I was definitely a sinner – no getting around it, no matter how much justification I wanted to give. So I accepted the solution, Jesus, and became a Christian. Anyway, I loved the new church here in Scottsdale.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Marsha! The Sedona vortices are said to be real, but like you, I didn’t feel anything. Mind over matter, or power of suggestion? I also don’t feel earthquakes either, LOL! My thesis professor spent a month in silence at Mt Shasta in 2008. She (prefers “they” now) changed their name right after. We are all touched in many different ways.
      I loved reading your testimony and I think it’s important to remember the pastors and teachers that walked along on our journeys.

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      1. We are all touched in many ways. Interesting times to be alive. I feel earthquakes, though. We had one our first Sunday in CA. Our house shook and we thought a train was going by, but there were no tracks. That’s when Mark realized I didn’t pack his good shoes. He had to call someone he’d met once and ask if he could borrow his black boots. His wife dubbed them Irv’s Preaching Boots.

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  18. The Two Nuns rock formation is incredible, Terri. When I visited the Grand Canyon, I remembered how amazing some of the rock formations were.

    I’m not religious but enjoy visiting churches and cathedrals more for their history. I’m always drawn to stained glass windows because of the colours, especially when the sun shines through them and produces a colourful shadow on the floor. Some of the vaults and tombs also intrigue me.

    I always recall my visit to Westminster Catherdal one Christmas. It’s full of history dating back one thousand years. The sheer size of the place takes your breath away.

    My entry is this week’s Wordless Wednesday, which is coming up shortly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Hugh, Sedona’s rocks are world renowned for sure–photos don’t really do them justice until you are surrounded by them. I love stained glass. The front door of our former house was one we got from the church when it renovated. That was one things I wish we could have brought with us, it had a small stained glass window in it. I’ll have to look into getting a better front door for our current home. Back to churches, I’m sure the Westminster Cathedral is beyond stunning! Off to check out your post!

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    1. Thank you, Natalie. Years ago I visited Mt Shasta for the first time and discovered the 100+ mile long Sacramento River begins from a spring in the town of Mt Shasta. I never got tired of visiting Yosemite, I suspect it will be a while before I go again. Too many other national parks to explore in the PNW and Montana!

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  19. Those are some magnificent churches Terri and the video of the choir was amazing, so perfectly synchronized and the beautiful voices as well. I am sorry your first pastor was so judgy but look at his replacement and the wonderful friendship that still remains. Your scenic photographs are also wonderful – Mother Nature’s construction.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Honestly, spending time in real life doing what we really love is the most important thing, right? And sometimes we blog about the experience. Enjoy your birding, you are very inspirational!

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