For more information on the D. L. Moody Center, watch “Retreat in the Lord or Find the Lord: New D. L. Moody Center Offers a Place of Spiritual Renewal,” on The 700 Club.
“I believe the blessing of God is going to rest upon this building and those who come here. I think Northfield is just about as near Paradise as we can get on earth.”D. L. Moody
When I began working for the D. L. Moody Center, I listened to a lot of people describe Northfield, but I didn’t get it. I didn’t fully grasp how this place was different from any other. Historic buildings and a compelling story made Northfield interesting, but there are a lot of interesting places. It wasn’t until my second trip to Northfield in October of 2018 that I really began to understand how the D. L. Moody Center property in Northfield was different.
It isn’t about the history, though that is compelling. It is about what the spaces in Northfield, indeed the property as a whole, prompts those who visit to do. It presses them to reflect. Those who come to Northfield, MA, are genuinely challenged to consider who God is and what that means for the way they live their lives. It is a place uniquely capable of inspiring prayerful, thoughtful reflection and of confronting visitors with the gospel.
While we often think of space as physical, “where we are” entails far more than our physical location. Space is also symbolic. We participate within it and co-create something that transcends physical reality with the various parts of the environment with which we interact. When we look at the Birthplace of D. L. Moody, we don’t simply see an old building. We recognize it as a place in which a young boy who had lost his father was confronted with the reality of abject poverty and had the responsibilities of adulthood thrust upon him at an early age. If we are paying attention, we feel the weight of self-sacrifice that Moody made as he stepped away from formal education and into the workforce to help support his family. We see it as a place where a struggling family experience the humility that comes from accepting help from others. To put it more simply, in the Birthplace, we see hope despite the brokenness of the world.
Each space and place on the D. L. Moody Center property offers this sort of experience because a man from Northfield, MA, determined to see what God would do when even one of his people were fully consecrated to him. While Dwight Moody travelled the world in service to the Lord, the D. L. Moody Center’s space offers visitors a vivid sense of God’s work through the life of Moody in a way no other single location can.
Having visited Northfield several times now, watched the sun set over Round Top , walked along the Idyllwood Trails, and listened to worship in the historic 2,300 seat auditorium, I’m beginning to think differently about the value of space. The way we order our various “spaces” speaks to our priorities and conveys our understanding of who God is. Spaces structure and order our interactions with God and the world. The spaces we create and support are theological expressions testifying to the God we serve and underscoring who we are as individuals and communities. In the end, spaces matter. We can’t ignore them.
The D. L. Moody Center has a great deal to do on the Northfield property and beyond. If you have an interest in visiting Northfield or in supporting our work, we would invite you to do so. Join with us in challenging and convening God’s people so that together we may proclaim the gospel to the world in word and deed.
JAMES SPENCER, PHD is President the D.L. Moody Center, an independent non-profit organization based in Northfield, MA, and author of Useful to God: Eight Lessons from the Life of D. L. Moody and Thinking Christian: Essays on Testimony, Accountability, and the Christian Mind