As in many rural and southern towns, religion and spirituality are integral to public life in Robeson and Scotland Counties. This is made visible in traditional sites of spirituality such as temples, mosques, and churches, but may also be found in spaces typically viewed as secular. As a result of the way a building or site is used, it can become a new type of consecrated space through the memories, histories, uses, and meaning that are layered into its walls over time.
Noran Sanford believes the prison site that his organization, GrowingChange, is transforming is one such secular space that carries a spiritual significance. By entering the physical space of the abandoned prison site, people enter a liminal mental space that helps them realize, perhaps for the first time, the oppressive system at play in their communities. In this way, entering the prison becomes an inherently a spiritual act. GrowingChange tills that soil to bring up a larger conversation as they actively encourage folks to engage in tough conversations, whether spiritual, social, or political.
In part I of a two-part exploration of spirituality and public space in this region, GrowingChange Youth Leaders meditate on their experiences of the spaces and grounds of a decommissioned work-camp prison. Though not explicitly spiritual or political in topic, their thoughts act as a form of spiritual communion and political reflection.—Morgan Augillard and Joey Swerdlin, Along the Lumbee River report editors
Read The Work of Faith: A Report on Rural Church Life in the Time of Pandemic, part II of our exploration on spirituality and place.