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On Sanctuary

With the upheaval we in the United States have experienced in the past weeks, the word “sanctuary” has taken on a deeper meaning for me. We all need places of sanctuary when times and events are ominous and hurtful. How can this blog address the need for sanctuary in our world today? Certainly churches, synagogues, and other houses of worship have traditionally provided sanctuary to people in distress or danger. And “sanctuary cities” are springing up across the United States. Last night I attended a vigil at a local Islamic Center (Hudson, NY) which was held to affirm solidarity with immigrants. It was a warm, candlelit outdoor gathering on a frigid night. The gathering was sponsored by the Columbia County Sanctuary Movement. Sanctuary as a movement is interesting to me.

Hudson Islamic Center vigil for solidarity

Hudson Islamic Center vigil for solidarity

My interest lies in sanctuaries without walls, and spontaneous gatherings, rather than literal sanctuary in buildings. On the day of the Women’s Marches worldwide,  a friend and I gathered together a group of women who for a variety of reasons were not marching. Around a dining room table we spoke our fears and hopes, and pondered actions we could take.

How, in our everyday lives, do we each provide sanctuary to others? How can we, with others, provide sanctuary in ways  “outside the walls?” What does sanctuary mean to you, and how do you create or experience it in your life?

About Katharine

Mixed media / textile artist and underground minister. and

6 responses »

  1. Pingback: Thinking about Sanctuary | Sanctuary Without Walls

  2. I am so heartened that you are taking the time to write about this in this time. Sanctuary must be a movement, not just a building or a place, for without active participation, buildings, places are easily deconstructed, the meaning we assign to them easily subverted (as when a “public park” is closed to gatherings). Your thoughts have inspired in me a new understanding of your own Sanctuary Without Walls.

  3. Katharine. I wish I could have been there. I’m sure there were many worthy ideas. I wish you’d summarize some of those that were expressed. I believe that my spiritual sanctuary all my life has been not only my art and music, when I was a practicing musician, but also in other people’s thoughts and writing. I’ve been reading a lot of Orhan Pamuk recently, the Turkish novelist who writes from his own experience in Turkey. I find myself lost in his books and others like him who have led interesting, philosophical kinds of lives, just thinking about the world around them, not like the kind of stultified philosophy Bernie and I studied but real life philosophy that makes people go on with their lives. That provides sanctuary for me in a sense because I experience so much of how others live. I used to love and still do love, Oriental literature especially Japanese which is often infused with such emotional suffering. The tragic experience, not cruel or bestial but tragic in the lierary sense, I guess lifts me to heights of hope because it can’t get any worse. The pain I feel in my heart for others is a kind of sublimeness. I can’t explain it any further. It certainly isn’t peaceful. But sanctuary isn’t always peaceful. Sometimes it’s also painful. It is empathy for the suffering. I also take sanctuary in reading about wildlife and nature and that is not always peaceful either but thrills me to a depth I can’t explain. I hope I’m making some kind of sense here. I hope this doesn’t sound like escapism. We really need to talk about this. Let’s get together soon. Love always. Marlene

    • Marlene, Thank you for this wonderful list of ways/places you find sanctuary. Being in the natural world has always been a big one for me. I firmly believe that to sustain our actions in the world we need to be replenished often, in whatever ways serve us best. The world needs all the beauty and peace we can point to and bring forth from it.
      Within our sanctuary meeting on the day of the Women’s March in January, our time together included moments of despondency, anger, and fear, as well as determination, love, sustenance, humor, and peace. What you write about sanctuary not always being peaceful is spot on. It is a safe container which can hold our full humanity, which is complex. This is not escapism. I very much appreciate your thoughtful, heartfelt comment, and look forward to a time when we can be together.


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