This past Friday, 125 guests joined us at the Lamplighter Inn for our first ever Murder Mystery Gala! It was a blast, the food was fantastic and the murderer was caught! Thank you to all who attended and supported Sanctuary London! Please enjoy the photos taken that night, and stay tuned for future fundraising events!
It is with full hearts and great excitement that we announce the addition of Tessa Buckley to the staff of Sanctuary London!Tessa has been a heavily involved, and well loved member of the Sanctuary community for 8 years. Her heart for people, and the way she creates home within Sanctuary is incredible. We look forward […]
On Wednesday, December 21, Sanctuary London celebrated their 10th Christmas party! It was an absolutely wonderful evening full of good food, gifts, and best of all, amazing company. We feel so blessed to be able to celebrate the birth of our Saviour together with our wonderful friends and family.
Communities Working Together for (un)Common Blessing It’s kind of just the way Reto’s mind works. He sees things that others look past. He sees work that needs doing and he longs – literally, he longs – to go and do it. Circle Square Ranch in Brantford is a summer camp that operates under Intervarsity Fellowship […]
As I was leaving the fireside room during a Sanctuary drop-in, I almost ran head-on into Len. He was waiting for me, excited to show me the new boots he’d gotten that morning. “Check out my new boots, Debra! I’ve never had boots like this before… no holes, warm, leather… just in time for winter too.” His eyes gleamed as he held out one foot, then the other; he was happy to have them, but also happy to have someone to share his experience with. The boots were part of a generous donation of footwear from Talbot Street Church this past November.
For several years now, Sanctuary London and Talbot Street Church have lived out a partnership: two churches sharing one physical space, and learning how to love the poor and excluded together. While it isn’t always easy to know the best way, we have intentionally sought a direction of being ‘one’ in following Christ and his calling. Last October, Talbot Street Church embraced a sermon series called “Follow Me,” and imagined the reality of walking in Jesus’ footsteps—how to follow him in genuine ways, and go where he goes.
What does it mean to really follow him, especially when God calls two very different communities such as Sanctuary and Talbot, to follow him together? And when we are faced with community callings of mutuality, reciprocity, vulnerability, and togetherness, what better symbol of learning to walk together, than a communion table filled with donated shoes for Sanctuary London? As Pastor Steve shared, Jesus’ invitation to follow him means he believes in us that we can “live like him, love like him, forgive like him, be like him.” But how?
Living, loving, forgiving, and being like him also means stepping out of the boat—not an easy thing. When the rich and poor come together, we often have fears around starting relationships with people who seem so different from us, so ‘other.’ But God still calls us to walk on the water. When ordinary people come together with Christ’s love at the centre, extraordinary things happen.
I have been part of Sanctuary for four years now, but on the morning of the offering of shoes, I was playing piano as part of Talbot Street Worship. On either side of the communion table were two empty tables, covered in simple blue tablecloths and surrounded with a sense of anticipation. We accompanied communion with the song “Oceans.” As Leanna sang, her voice filled the church with beauty and love. And when I looked up momentarily from the piano, I was vaguely aware of the presence of a crowd coming up to the tables…
The lyrics of the song tore through my heart, like wind through leaves: “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me…” I looked up, and suddenly realized that both tables were piled high with shoes and boots, and my heart ached with love. Not only were they being donated to our Sanctuary friends, who had walked hundreds of miles with nowhere to go and nowhere to belong, but the shoes also symbolized our desire to walk with those who are hurting, to love the poor, to trust without borders, to let faith take the lead.
When two communities come together, it means risking to open up a space of love. Sometimes it means saying “I don’t know how, but I want to.” It might mean walking into a Sanctuary meal drop-in and sitting down with someone to hear their story. The shoes our friends wear literally walk them through their darkest days, and what helps them most, is having someone to walk the journey with them and to meet them where they are—to ‘walk in their shoes’ with them.
When you hold a tiny seed in the palm of your hand, it looks plain. Insignificant. Smaller than a grain of rice. But inside that tiny seed lies something uniquely beautiful that God is creating deep in the soil’s darkness. This past May, we planted seeds for Sanctuary’s community garden. After we had carefully pressed the seeds into soil in their small seed containers, there was nothing much to see—we began waiting for what seemed the most remarkable: tiny green sprouts emerging from soil. Except this year, I was aware that the remarkable often happens long before we ever see that first green shoot emerging…
One year ago May, we planted our community garden for the first time. As our garden filled with tomatoes, carrots, beans, peppers, brussel sprouts, and more, I was constantly reminded of how these plants were symbolic of new things God was creating in and around us: moments of his Kingdom in our Sanctuary community—God was growing beautiful seeds in each of us and in our relationships. Many
of our Sanctuary friends struggle in various ways: mental health issues, poverty, addictions, trauma, unhealthy relationships, homelessness, social disconnection, loneliness, and more. But there is also hope and resilience, healing, wanting better, and seeking joy. As the garden plants sprung up, and I witnessed the abundance of green filling the garden, it was a symbol for me of God’s faithfulness: “Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”
I thought I understood what God was showing me: the importance of celebrating and proclaiming these good things that I perceived with my very own eyes—the plants I could see growing in abundance. But then, this past winter, God showed me a deeper meaning of his promise of a new thing—a trust in what we could not see. During a season of darkness both for myself and a few of our Sanctuary friends, God felt far away. And with darkness often comes a time of questioning: where was God during the darkness? Where was he when we had lost hope, wrestled with grief, depression, and illness, and longed for family, belonging, renewed marriage, reconciliation, healing, forgiveness, and recovery?
In the midst of darkness, God showed me that he often does his very best work in a place we cannot yet perceive—under the heavy soil, where that tiny seed is held in the fullest darkness, and where no human eye can see. I began to think more deeply about God’s transformation in our darkness. For a seed to become a plant, it must first crack open and come apart; it must go through germination, deep in the darkness of soil. The seed absorbs water, and its coat swells and softens. The cells of the seed divide and the root grows down into soil, anchoring the plant and letting it absorb nutrients. The curved neck of the seedling emerges from the seed, pushing slowly up through the soil and finally into the light, where the first seed leaves open.
In our own human darkness, what feels like death can actually be life—a transformation of our heart and spirit that causes our own leaves to open fully. Perhaps a call to change, growth, healing, and deeper relationship with God. Or something else uniquely wonderful. But in the place where it feels like no light can reach, God is doing a new thing in us! This year, as we planted seeds, I finally understood that the waiting time—when seeds are below the soil’s surface and all we can see is plain, bare soil—is actually the most beautiful part. He is working in ways we cannot yet imagine or perceive. Without this waiting time, we would never have the chance to behold the new and remarkable things God is doing, to see them transform, take root, grow, and spring up, and to trust and celebrate the harvest that is coming.
To be seen and known, to matter to someone else—this is one of our deepest universal human desires. The heartbreaking opposite is to be invisible—to have others look right through you as if you are a part of the sidewalk. When others don’t see you, you start to lose yourself; you disappear little by little…
It’s mid-evening, and the Richmond sidewalks are a mess of melting spring-snow; damp air and drizzle sting my face. I notice a man a little ways ahead, in the shadows of a store front; he’s agitated, his posture tense, his voice loud. Soon, I can see his disheveled dark hair and scars on his cheek. It’s Freddy, a man I’ve come to know during many walks downtown, where he sits on the sidewalk day after day, ready to talk with anyone who will listen.
I’ve never seen Freddy so upset before. When I pause and say hello, he seems surprised and relieved to see me, and before long, the hurts of his day pour out, his words tumbling faster than I can catch them. He tells me how a couple of people walking by that day said unkind things to him and judged him; but worse, he explains, were all the people who pretended they didn’t see him and said nothing at all…
“I’m a nice guy! I’m a nice guy, and I say nice things. Even the police know I’m nice, and they leave me alone, because they know I don’t cause trouble, don’t hurt no one. But the people who walk by me… they judge me! They say mean things, or lift their noses at me. But the worst is when they ignore me. I say hello and they walk right by, like I’m not even here… Why won’t they talk to me? Why am I invisible?”
The truth in his words overwhelms me. He tells me even his family won’t have contact with him. “No one in my family calls me when someone dies. When my aunt died, no one even told me.” To feel invisible is an unbearable loneliness. “Someday I’ll die on the street, and nobody will even know.”
I wish more people knew Freddy. For me, he’s always been welcoming and kind, inviting me into conversation, remembering my name, and making me feel at home. He tells me about his family, his sons, his life regrets and hurts. I’m blessed by his trust and openness. It seems easy now, to stop and talk, but I’m aware there was a time when it wouldn’t have been as easy, when I didn’t yet know the beautiful ways that God would reach me and love me through someone like him.
My story in learning about homelessness and poverty goes back a few years. I was new in London and attending Western, when I first began hearing confusing advice from well-meaning people: ‘don’t go downtown. Maybe go as far as Richmond Row, but not all the way to Dundas.’ They advised it wasn’t safe, I wouldn’t like it, the people there were ‘different’… I know they were trying to help. Truth was, some of them didn’t seem to even know why there were telling me—it was a message passed on from person to person. A never-ending cycle of fear perpetuated by lack of understanding.
Thankfully, I ended up exactly where they told me not to go… living out community in the downtown. Thankfully I became involved with Sanctuary London, where I began to meet many people at street-level… some of the most warm-hearted and caring people I’ve ever met. During my walks downtown, I started to chat with Freddy and others in his shoes—I started to really see them in new ways.
Someone who doesn’t know Freddy might have misunderstood his frustration that night as unkind or unsafe, and avoided him. But the very reason for his anger and hurt was that no one knew him—no one cared… the chaos in his heart was born of a deep longing for human connection.
How do we get there, I wonder? How do we stop closing our eyes and pretending the hurt right in front of us doesn’t exist? How do we treat those we meet on the streets like they matter, as God’s sons and daughters, as his beloved? How do we follow God in loving those we are afraid to love? Often it’s through these very friendships that he gives us eyes to see, eyes to behold his glory. And as we see the ‘other’ with love, we also receive the eyes to see ourselves with love, and the deeper knowing that we too are God’s beloved.
Sanctuary’s 3rd Anniversary Celebration
Return to the 80’s! Power bangs and mullets, Rick Astley and Twisted Sister, moon walks and Rubix Cubes! Join us for a night of fun, music, and an air band contest!
Friday, February 28th, 7pm-11pm
513 Talbot Street
If you already know a little about Sanctuary London, then you probably know we love to gather for community celebrations! Sometimes we gather for a special holiday or occasion, sometimes to celebrate our arts and creative gifts, and sometimes for no other reason than we love to be together! Similar to the story of the prodigal son, we all want a place to come home to—at Sanctuary, we are continually called ‘home’ by each other and by God, and this calls for a celebration, a party, a banquet feast!
After three years of being together, we have much to celebrate! We celebrate our weakness and we celebrate our belovedness. We celebrate new friendships, many shared stories, and a deeper loneliness transformed into belonging. Every tiny act of welcome, inclusion, love, forgiveness, trust, healing, and acceptance calls for celebration. Most importantly, we celebrate each other—our gifts and love, and our deepest woundedness. Embracing our completeness in Christ allows us to be human together in our process of becoming the community God calls us to be, where all who are poor and excluded are welcomed and loved with open arms.
Many of our friends at Sanctuary come with poor and weakened spirits. They’ve seen much more than their fair share of hurt, trauma, and grief, and much less than their fair share of true joy and celebration. Often in communities of poverty, where many have experienced rejection, exlusion, and woundedness, God’s presence and love and healing becomes that much more visible to us—we see God in ways we’ve never seen him before. And it is this communion between each other and with God, that calls for intentional celebration.
We are not always used to the image of God throwing a party; often we become so deeply affected by the pain and hurt in and around us, that we forget to intentionally seek ways to celebrate and claim joy. In his book The Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri Nouwen reminds us that God has a heart for rejoicing: “When I think about the ways in which Jesus describes God’s Kingdom, a joyful banquet is often at its center… Celebration belongs to God’s Kingdom. God not only offers forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing, but wants us to lift up these gifts as a source of joy for all who witness them” (p. 113).
On February 28th, we will be rejoicing in all that God is doing in our midst! We welcome our Sanctuary friends, we welcome new people coming for the first time, and we welcome the larger community and churches who have supported us. Everyone is welcome at the banquet feast—Jesus left nobody out! Our vision of a community celebration is ‘everyone together’ with an abundance of food, singing, joy, and fellowship, and especially an abundance of God’s love. A taste of the Kingdom right here on earth.
Will you join us?
It had been a long, stressful, and difficult day, and my heart was not in the best shape. To make matters worse, I was arriving at the Wednesday drop-in later than usual, and I dreaded entering the large, crowded atrium in the middle of dinner time. The room would be packed, every seat filled, and conversations underway. And, although I knew I belonged here, I suddenly felt like an outsider arriving for the first time, anxious and a little intimidated. I didn’t want to go in. Even though I normally felt at home and comfortable at Sanctuary, I found myself praying: “God, give me courage…”
Entering the room, I crossed quickly between busy tables, wishing to be invisible for a moment. The room buzzed with dinner activity and chatter, and I had trouble feeling at ease. I headed for the refuge of the kitchen, but before I could get very far, I heard someone yelling my name, and then saw Jake waving at me. “Over here! I saved you a seat!” Jake came to our drop-ins every week, desperate for friendship and support. He’d been struggling with anxiety, depression, and loneliness for months; it took every ounce of his focus and energy just to keep himself together and above water, let alone help others. Yet, today, he had thought of me.
And as I sank into the empty chair beside him, I immediately began putting away my own anxiousness and hurts from the day, so that I could care for Jake. But to my surprise, he had a different idea. Giving me a big heartfelt smile, he somehow sensed my need, and was completely ready to care for me.
“How are you?” he asked, handing me a plate and cutlery, and welcoming me to the table. “Would you like some lasagna?”
“Yes, thanks,” I said, feeling surprised. He leaned over and asked the next table if they would share what they had left. When they handed him the glass dish, he served some hot lasagna onto my plate.
“You want some juice?” I nodded, and he filled my glass. “Salad? A napkin?” Again, I nodded, and he quietly and gently served me, giving me a kind look every now and again. Glancing around, I took in the familiar faces of my friends around the table—they were talking, laughing and sharing stories, and I finally relaxed a little into that feeling of knowing I was ‘home’.
Later, after supper was over, Jake came with dessert, and brought me some tea. I felt so grateful for how he loved and cared for me through these seemingly small gestures. Though to be honest, my pride tempted me to swing back into the predictable pattern, where Jake was the vulnerable one, and I was the one he turned to for help. That way he could need me, and not the other way around. That seemed easier; more what I was used to. But God spoke insistently to my heart: “All you need to do right now is let yourself be cared for. Let Jake love you, and let me love you through him. Just receive this love.”
Suddenly in that moment, I understood that in Jake was Jesus, washing my feet. And there was nothing to do but receive. I was reminded of something a good friend had said to me the week before: “We need to be a sanctuary for you, too.” These words came true as God showed up in Jake, giving me a space to be weak. Even with nothing to give, I was enough.
There is a song we often sing on Sunday nights during worship: “Lord prepare me, to be a Sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true…” What does this mean exactly, to be a sanctuary? Perhaps becoming God’s dwelling place for one another, a beautiful place set apart and made holy. A safe place to be honoured in our weaker moments. A place where someone says, “You have cared for me. Now let me care for you.”
When I finished eating, Jake gracefully took my dishes without a word. “Thank you for your kindness,” I said. “When I arrived tonight, I was feeling…” I hesitated, not wanting to admit how anxious I had been. He gave me a knowing nod. “You felt awkward. Out of place. I get it.” He knew that feeling all too well. And as we kept chatting and hanging out that night, there was no more rich and poor, strong and weak, helper and helped—no ‘one above the other’. There was only genuine friendship and understanding, both of us caring for each other, and walking together in the same direction.