Student Leadership at The Seattle School is facilitated by four individuals—three students and one spouse or partner of a student—who lead four distinct realms: Anamchara, Sacred Space, Student Council, and Mosaic. Alex Mrakovich is the 2015-2016 facilitator of Sacred Space, which also includes Drew Dixon, Rosie Pearson, and Alex Zarecki. Here, we talk with Alex, a second-year Master of Divinity student, about the heart behind Sacred Space. And in case you missed them, check out our conversations with Emily McBroom of Anamchara and Elise Hale-Case of Student Council.
What’s Sacred Space all about?
We seek to create and enter space to rest, wrestle, and play, in relationship with God, ourselves, and each other. Sacred Space deals with rhythms—the church calendar, the student life cycle, the academic calendar, then all the other rhythms people carry in with them. We seek to mark certain times when these things coincide gracefully, and also when there’s a sort of collision in those rhythms. So if we do a Vespers service during Lent, we’re attentive to Lent, but we’re also attentive to what students have going on in their lives.
You mentioned the Vespers services—what else does Sacred Space oversee?
We curate the art galleries too. We do Art on Our Walls, and what’s on the gallery walls coincides with that rhythm. It helps people feel grounded in the space during a particular time. I’d like to grow that, too, to acknowledge that there are other mediums in addition to fine art. I think there’s a lot of potential around what it might look like to do that for the poet, the storyteller, the singer-songwriter.
We also curate the Chapel space, in partnership with Dwight Friesen’s Life Together class that leads communion every Wednesday. It’s a space that’s set aside—no meetings occur in that room, and it’s always open for students to rest, play, and wrestle with themselves, each other, and the divine.
What made you want to get involved?
The first thing was just having someone approach me and invite me. It was sort of a pillar of a moment last year for me, being seen by someone in that way—them seeing who I am and who I’m becoming and how that lined up with Sacred Space. The second thing was remembering something Paul Steinke said during Orientation last year, about how if you want to change an institution, if you want to change a community, you have to tap into the rhythms of a place.
That idea—being attentive to rhythms and how that forms and shapes the life of a place—intrigued me because I’ve always been interested in liturgy and rhythms and formation. I’m still ambivalent about spaces, and that’s part of the reason why I’m in this group.
Wait. The leader of Sacred Space is ambivalent about space? What do you mean?
When I say that, I mean I really live my life in my head. I have a hard time getting out of my head and getting into my body and my whole being. There’s something about spaces that is comforting on one level, but provocative in a way that helps you get out of your head and into what’s really going on. Part of what Sacred Space does, whether it’s art, the chapel space, different events like Vespers—when those are done well and with a certain kind of attentiveness, you remind people of where they are. That’s not natural for me, so in some ways there’s almost a necessity for me to do this work. I need to be just as formed in that process as everybody else.
This might be an impossible question, but what is it that makes a space sacred?
Take what happens at 12:30 on Wednesdays, when we take the Eucharist in the Chapel. It’s obviously a sacred moment, in time as well as space, but that practice is also a means to proclaim that every meal is potentially Eucharistic. Although there’s something particular about the Eucharist that’s sacramental, it’s also a means to remind us that all of life is sacramental. So as we participate in events and galleries and rhythms, those things are sacred, but it’s also a reminder for us to live our lives in a way that every space is holy ground and potentially formative.
Anything you’ve been able to accomplish so far that you’re particularly proud of?
The other three members—Rosie, Drew, Alex—and I all joined at the same time, and it’s been cool to do this alongside one another. I think about the Fall Vespers, pulling that off with those folks. The most exciting thing about that night was connecting not just student to student but student to staff and faculty. We had Dr. Parker, Richard Kim, and a student, Lynn Diepenbroek, all speak around the theme of welcoming God and one another. There was something really beautiful about that.
How that night ended was really special too. Can you tell us about that?
We ended with everyone singing in like a parade going downstairs, and a time of feasting to welcome people into a new year. I think there’s a temptation in the work at The Seattle School to drown everything in sorrow. Sorrow comes naturally. How can we hold on to necessary sorrow, grief, lament, but still have attentiveness to playfulness? There’s something, too, about moving together from the Large Classroom to the Commons—the place where we eat and play. It’s about empowering people to do this outside.
Anything you’d like to say to the students who are still settling into their first year at The Seattle School?
I’m really excited about this new cohort and inviting them into this process. One thing I’d say is to not question what they bring to the table. The rest of us as students, and the staff and faculty, we have a lot to learn from this cohort. Over and over again, what has kept me at the table here is the constant reminder that I am invited to co-create. With that comes: Trust your voice. We talk about trusting one another, but I think people are scared to trust themselves. They have a lot to offer.
The other thing would be to stay open to the possibilities. Frederick Buechner has this great quote: “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” I think your work here will be both beautiful and terrifying, and that’s okay. And really I say that to myself.
And what about to the student body at large?
If I’m to say something, I think it’s just gratitude for the small conversations, the small glances. Sometimes it’s just a look someone gives you that invites you into your own goodness. It’s a gratitude for, whether they know it or not, continually inviting me and others to the table.