Back when I was serving as youth leader for the Viimsi Church youth group, I remember having sauna parties with the guys every few weeks (the church had its own sauna built in, a real perk both for those living in the house or for ministry purposes). In the winter while the sauna was heating, we would take axes and shovels out about 100 meters onto the sea ice and carve out a hole large enough for us to submerge ourselves in the shallow water between rounds in the sweat-room.
We had a lot of great conversations in the sauna and it was in that context that I realized that Estonians will happily share deeply if the setting is private … and warm. Sauna is just that place. It isn’t just relaxing, it’s a place of very real connection on a deep level (in old times, as the cleanest part of the house it was also the site of birth, death and medicine).
This last year while participating in the life and gatherings of the Laitse Church, this potential for deep connection was confirmed when I attended their men’s sauna fellowship a few times. One of the men told me that he equates sauna fellowship with a unique kind of worship service since there are ‘sacramental’ exchanges that happen in that context that could not happen anywhere else.
One of the purposes of our Hospitality House is to provide a space for the Rapla Church (or any other church for that matter) to make use of our sauna for those same sacramental exchanges. Here is a view of what we have in mind for the sauna.
The sweat-room will accommodate 5 people comfortably. The resting room (to the right of the shower) will hold another 5 or so and will be equipped with a small refrigerator, coffee maker and tea kettle. The resting room opens out onto a sheltered private patio which looks out onto the back lawn. We hope to put a wood fired hot-tub out there some day for cooling down between sauna sessions. The sauna area is a distinct space accessible to the studio apartment downstairs and the short-term guest rooms upstairs, so it should theoretically be possible to have a long-stay guest, short-stay guest and sauna users all at the same time (though that would be a pretty crowded house!)
With a price tag on the sauna at about 2000 to 2500 Euros, we’re hoping to have the whole thing knocked out by the time my parents come for a visit in late April.