When you think of sanctuary, I wonder what first springs to mind. I wonder where your place of sanctuary is, the place you feel safest.
I asked some people over on Facebook and Twitter a few weeks back and the responses revolved mainly around bed, at home or with loved ones. The general consensus was that sanctuary was as much a feeling as a place; but what struck me is that not one person named church as their sanctuary. Some spoke about being a part of sung worship as their sanctuary; but no-one specified church.
And yet throughout scripture was see the language of sanctuary; some of have described the Garden of Eden as a sanctuary, the Israelites had the tabernacle; their divine dwelling and in the New Testament we move to the idea of our sanctuary being found in the person of Jesus. Hebrews 9.24 says:
“For the Messiah did not go into a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”
Sanctuaries; whether in architecture or within a person are places of safety and places of worship. They are the ‘dwelling place of God’ – a space for worship and safety as seen in Isaiah 8 and Ezekiel 11 – and these places can be anywhere because through Jesus we don’t just have God’s presence through lamb’s blood, it’s the presence of Immanuel – God with us.
In creating a sanctuary we want to also enable them to be sanctuary people who feel safe in their own skin and their worlds through accepting who they are, loving and guiding them.
Rachel Held Evans writes:
“Imagine if every church became a place where everyone is safe, but no one is comfortable. Imagine if every church became a place where we told one another the truth. We might just create sanctuary.”
This is what we want to encourage with our sanctuary campaign. Over the year we are going to be revisiting this campaign once a month to highlight how church can be as accessible as possible for everyone; from thinking about the language we use to the ways in which we can lighten the darkness of mental illness through the way our churches respond.
Over the coming months we are going to be looking at lament, the way we approach food, responding to difficult situations and cultivating safe places for those in crisis. To tie in with this we are also offering new optional modules on Bipolar Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a part of our ThinkTwice Course.
Later we will be looking at the first sanctuary, the Garden of Eden.
If you want to get involved in our campaign, take a picture of your sanctuary and caption it saying what makes it your safe place, using the hashtag #ThinkTwiceSanctuary @ThinkTwiceInfo.