LRU News

LR students explore Hickory’s Sacred Spaces

Thu Jan 16 2014

Student names left to right include: Teddy Esch, Caitlin Hughey, and Aaron Nelson, at Plaza Latina in Newton.

HICKORY, N.C. — What do the Exodus Missionary Outreach Church, Union Square, The Zahra Baker All Children’s Playground and Club Cabaret, have in common?

They are, each in their own way, considered Hickory, N.C.’s sacred spaces.

In the fall of 2013 LR Prof. Devon Fisher led his team of students on a project of discovery designed to explore their surroundings, identify sacred spaces and get to the bottom of what it is exactly that makes these spaces sacred to the people of Hickory and Catawba County.

But first they had to come to an understanding of the term itself. What does “sacred” mean?

Answering that deceptively simple question became the project’s focus. They came up with a pair of answers, which they posted on the project’s website

The spiritual definition of sacred spaces is “places that allow humans to interact with the divine.” The more secular view is that what makes a place sacred is that something “about the place puts us in community in a way that helps us to realize that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves.”

Fisher’s students ran with both definitions and identified five sacred spaces. But, as the website makes clear, “This is an ongoing project, and the spaces noted below are not intended to be a final, definitive list.”

The only Newton landmark to make the list was Plaza Latina— a collection of businesses, including an indoor soccer arena, located ten miles southeast of Hickory that caters to the Latino population. The Plaza also serves as a central gathering place for Hickory’s Latino population.

The Exodus Missionary Outreach Church serves the underserved. Its congregation is composed of the homeless, recovering addicts and the poor who sit shoulder to shoulder with communitymembers from a wide variety of backgrounds.

Many consider Union Square the heart of Hickory. It’s a public space with wide sidewalks, shops and restaurants. It also hosts community events like Oktoberfest, art crawls and concerts. It’s also the site of Hickory’s weekly farmer’s market.

The Zahra Baker All Children’s Playground is a wheelchair-accessible playground where every child can have fun no matter their level of mobility. It also serves as a memorial to Zahra Baker. Bakersurvived two bouts with cancer. The first took her leg. The second took much of her hearing.
But her smile and her spirit remained intact. Baker was murdered a month before her eleventh birthday by her stepmother who pleaded guilty to the crime.

The playground was designed and built in an effort to build hope from tragedy.

Club Cabaret in downtown Hickory is a nightclub that primarily serves Hickory’s LGBTQ community.  The club’s patrons and performers agree that the Cabaret is a place where they find community, understanding and acceptance.

The first phase of Fisher’s Sacred Spaces project is the website where the students have posted photos, videos and writings documenting their work.

The second component will include three public presentations featuring discussions led by Dr. Devon Fisher, students in the course, and community members.

This project is made possible in part by a grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council, a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional funding was provided by Lenoir-Rhyne University and the Appalachian College Association.

The project’s second phase has begun. Check back on the website on or around April 15 for more additions to the list of Hickory’s Sacred Spaces.


The Schedule:

January 18, 2014 at 6:00 p.m.:  Exodus Missionary Outreach Church, 1763 Highland Ave. SE, Hickory NC

January 24, 2014 at 10:00 a.m.:  Lenoir-Rhyne University, Belk Centrum, 625 7th Ave. NE, Hickory NC

February 5, 2014 at 6:30 p.m.: First Presbyterian Church, 237 2nd St. NW, Hickory NC (Second floor of the education building)

All presentations are free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Devon Fisher at or by phone at 828-328-7455.

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