Sacred Places, Sacred Moments 

 In Religion & Spirituality, Voices of Young People

In our latest report, The State of Religion & Young People 2023: Exploring the Sacred, young people say that sacred experiences aren’t necessarily tied to physical places but are more often found in moments.

That said, young people do point to certain spaces and places where sacred moments show up for them.

In which of the following have you experienced a sacred moment on more than one occasion?

Percentages reflect responses from young people who report having had a sacred moment at some point in their life. Respondents were allowed to select more than one option.

In nature
In the privacy of my home or room
At a place of worship
At a religious or spiritual retreat
In transit from one place to another
At a social gathering
While visiting a new or foreign place
At a concert or other musical gathering
At school
While online
At work
At a protest or other political demonstration

In interviews, young people told us where sacred moments had taken place. And while the places themselves were noteworthy, the physical spaces and what happened there set the stage for special moments to become sacred. 

Morrigan, 15, noted a sacred moment happened for her while seeing her favorite musical artist in concert:

That was really fun to go to and connect with all the other people that love this person and love her music. It just felt like we all understood each other and like we were all one person just vibing with the music and enjoying it. I hate concerts and crowds, but I didn’t even think about that—I just thought about how fun it was, and how all these people struggle a lot, but we’re all connected by this artist and her music, and it all helps us . . . because her music is kind of sad. So I felt connected to all these people that I’ve never met before.”

Sarah, 18, remembered her first time going to a Pentecostal church with her mother and two younger sisters:

I just remember coming into that church broken spiritually, and basically crying out to God, giving my life because I had no idea how to restore myself. And all of a sudden I get this overwhelming feeling—it's like this fire, this fiery feeling. It has to come out and when it comes out, it comes out, you hear it, you can't interpret it, it just has to come out. It's in babble form. There's nothing that can contain it, and it's a confusing time when you first do it. After that there's just this relief that passes over me and the more that I do it, the more I just feel connected to God.”

Rhett, 22, recalled how a trip turned into sacred experience:

A few summers ago, I went backpacking out West on a hiking trip, and I had no phone, no technology at all. So just really being connected to the people around me and to nature, really detaching myself from the world, like not knowing what was happening. The intimacy that we shared together, but also just the connection to nature, was an important spiritual awakening, in a sense, and a development of my relationship with others and nature.

Riley, 24, found sacred moments sitting in movie theaters:

I joke with my friend a lot that movie theaters are like our church. I’ve never been to church, but I go to the movies at least once a week, which I didn’t always do. . . . But going to the theater, sitting in a dark room . . . theaters are dying, so sometimes there’s no one else there, but sometimes other people are there and they experience a movie with you. And I think I’ve gotten more involved with movies and thinking about movies and what that means for who we are and how we see ourselves. 

Like when I saw the movie Everything Everywhere All At Once . . . I think about that movie all the time now and how it talks about how, on the one hand, you can be really nihilistic and think that we’re small and insignificant and nothing matters in the world. Or you can say, yeah we’re small and insignificant, but that means we get to decide what matters in the world. And things like that, that I hold onto about films I watch—especially going to see them and being intentional about my time and space with them—I think has changed who I am and how I think about the world.

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