Being a sanctuary
by Katie Myers, Lay Leader
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts my King and my God. Psalm 84:3
The word sanctuary comes from the Latin sanctuarium.
We recognize in there the suffix arium (from words such as aquarium) meaning a container for something and sanctus meaning holy. A sanctuary is a container for holy things. Through time it has come to also mean a place of refuge or safety, where those who seek shelter are kept well and whole. A sanctuary is not only the specific worship space within a building, but a condition one finds within a safe and loving community.
This summer our church has been full of children. Through Project Transformation, week in and week out, children have come through our doors to find a place where people are concerned about their well-being. Here they found a place where their needs – physical, emotional, spiritual, and educational – were met. Through Vacation Bible School, over 200 children and youth experienced the love and care of God through the love and care we lavished upon them in that time. This is our commitment that the vulnerable will find us a sanctuary – a place that is dedicated to their safety, their nurture, their well-being, to their wholeness.
How do we honor that commitment? We do it by showing up and giving of our time and energy, our gifts and our treasure. We do it by providing our best, striving for excellence and quality in the work that we do. We do it by creating processes and policies and procedures that ensure that the vulnerable are not placed in situations that put them at risk. We acknowledge their vulnerability and our responsibility to avoid perpetuating systems that can cause harm. We also practice this care and vigilance through following the Safe Gatherings and Trusted/con Confianza program of training, background checks, and references that is required of everyone who works with children, youth, and vulnerable adults. This includes our pastors, our nursery workers, our Sunday School teachers, and our VBS volunteers. The Rio Texas Conference also requires it for all adults who participate in disaster response mission work. The Safe Gatherings program underscores our commitment to be a safe space, a haven, a refuge from harm, a sanctuary.
Truly a sanctuary is a container for holy things when it holds and embraces and cherishes people. Being a sanctuary is not always a glamorous business, but thanks be to God it is a glorious one!