Sanctuary – by Rev. Heather McCarrel

Photo by Lua Valentia used with permission/Unsplash

Recently, I had the privilege of visiting a lovely church.  Its sanctuary is full of stain glass windows and this ministry has a rich history of being a beacon of God’s love for over 140 years.  As I stood, masked, at one side of the sanctuary, a church member stood at the other side sharing beautiful stories of this beloved faith community.  When it came time to leave, he looked longingly around and honestly admitted, “It has been too long since I have been here. I don’t want to leave.”

I deeply understood his sentiment.  Each Sunday, like so many others, I join worship virtually via the live stream from my church.  Thankfully, we can “chrome cast” the service to our TV screen, and together my husband and I join with others to sing, pray, and reflect.   There are some advantages to gathering for virtual worship. For example, at my church, the chat bar is open allowing those who join worship to share a “hello” and a bit of fellowship prior to and following each service. We can also freshen up our coffee during the service without anyone knowing!  But it isn’t the same as being in the church’s sanctuary.

This pandemic living has me wondering where sanctuary can be found when one cannot go into the church building.  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines sanctuary as “a place of refuge and protection.”  Some have told me their place of sanctuary is a special spot in nature – either the sandy shores of Lake Huron or Georgian Bay, while others enjoy the forest canopy and accompanying birdsong. There are a few I know who find sanctuary in their gardens, watching the antics of the chipmunks while tending to God’s beauty.

Michael A. Singer, author of The Untethered Soul and The Surrender Experience, teaches that there are actually two worlds: one that goes on all around us, and one that goes on within us. He teaches that there is a power within us that pulls us upward. If we focus our inner self towards God, others, and eternity, we can create a refuge; we begin to create our own inner sanctuary.

Where do you find your sanctuary?  Where is your refuge?  If you haven’t developed one, maybe this pandemic is the perfect opportunity to do so!

Rev. Heather McCarrel