Today I accompanied a friend of mine to an apartment viewing here in London. He has been homeless, sleeping wherever he can, for about a month now. We’ve spent a ton of time looking for bachelor apartments. Living with a house mate(s) has just been too hard for him in the past. While looking on […]
Sunday night worship services at Sanctuary might just look a little different than a typical church’s Sunday service. We spend about half of our time openly sharing as a community, sometimes requesting songs that fit, praying for one another, often sharing deep pain, and laying it all down before the Father. Sometimes it’s quiet, other times someone gets […]
“When will the coffee be ready?” is often the first question you hear at Monday and Wednesday drop-ins at Sanctuary London, a non-profit in London that supports those facing poverty and exclusion. Delicious coffee, roasted locally by Patrick’s Beans, brings comfort to the uncomforted, and there is something even better about sharing it across the […]
At 8:30 this morning I was supposed to meet our friend Grace at the Sanctuary office to go to court together. I came a few minutes early, just in case she came early. I didn’t want her to knock on a locked door and risk having her walk away, especially on such a cold morning. […]
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 […]
Beside 513 Talbot Street sits a very special place called Sanctuary. It makes use of an addition to the main church building called ‘the atrium’. Two churches working together, sharing the same space. One Church. Often, the ‘Church-outside-the-church’. The people who come here are looking for something; food for the most part, as there are two meals provided each week. There are others who come looking for something more than physical sustenance. They come early, before the supper for fellowship, cards and coffee. Spiritual needs are taken care of.
I have been attending all of the functions at Sanctuary for nearly four years and have the others neatly divided into two camps: those who have had their lives destroyed, and those who are questioning their faith. Of course i’m sitting on the fence between the two. Many are lonely and looking for fellowship. Some can be alone for short periods in solitude; but few can endure isolation for any length of time and remain healthy. I believe that we are social creatures. The food may seem like it is the only thing drawing the folks in, but the fellowship, such as it is, keeps them coming back. It may not be as close-knit as some other churches, but it does welcome outsiders, many of whom have no where else to go because of drugs, alcohol, and mental health. They don’t get neatly dressed for the Bible study and they don’t put on their Sunday best for the circle meeting, possibly because they don’t own any fine and fancy clothing for such a purpose.
Paul talked about the social gospel and the scum of the earth congregation in the first century. It still exists, and will probably continue into the future if prophecy can be relied upon. It’s just that these days rent is offered free.
By Dan Lenart
For the first time ever, Sanctuary London has found some designated space to call ‘HOME’. As of February 2015, we will be renting space on the main floor of 531 Talbot Street. We are so thankful for all the people who have helped to make this possible, and are extremely excited about the increased ministry opportunities this space will provide. Please come by to say hi and see our space soon!
Special thanks to:
Talbot Street Church
Rodney Lover from Lover’s AtWork Office Furniture
Eldon and Lena Clelland
Gary and Helen Nash
Bob and Marie Spindler
Bill and Marg Reckman
Eric St. Pierre
Keith and Eithne Griffiths
“John, I’m surprised to see you here tonight. I thought you had said you wouldn’t be able to make it to our Christmas Eve dinner because you would be over at your parent’s place?”
John has been hanging out with the Sanctuary community for a number of years. Living in a geared to income apartment now, he was new to the streets when we first met him. He was pushed out of his family home at a young age as a result of deep conflict between he and his father. Christmas was the one time of year they would get together and attempt to put their differences aside.
“Don’t you remember last year?” John asked.
…And I do remember chatting with John last year the day after his family Christmas gathering. John told me that he may have eaten, and definitely drank way too much. It was all he could do to cope with the family berating him with questions: His dad, ‘got a job yet?’, Uncle Bill, ‘got a job yet?’, Uncle Fred, ‘got a job yet?’ The last thing John said really stuck out in my mind. “Just once I would like to be able to come and relax and enjoy myself and to have people happy to see me, just for me, and not be reminded of the fact that I am a complete failure in life.”…
“Ya, I remember what happened,” I told him, “But this is the one time in the entire year you get to see them, and you told me on Monday that I wouldn’t see you till after Christmas.”
I know, that was my plan, but I asked my mom if we could change our plans so that I could be here tonight to have Christmas dinner with my real family.
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.
“Darryl, I need you to come with me….. Like Now!” Today, just as we were cleaning up from drop-in, one of our younger friends crashed into the atrium and begged me to come with him. His eyes were desperate enough that I knew this might just be one of those ‘God-ordained interruptions’, and that I had better drop what I was doing and go. I gave Gil one of those looks as if to say, “You good here if I leave for a bit?”, and he gave one of his, “I got this, you better go” looks in return.
“We just found out that my girlfriend is pregnant a few weeks ago, and now she’s sitting on the toilet bleeding like crazy and I don’t know what to do.” Skippy is relatively new to our community, and honestly I don’t feel like I know him very well (not to mention I hadn’t even met his girlfriend at this point!). It always amazes me when one of our friends is so filled with humility that they have the strength to share their brokenness with us. And so together we walked a few blocks over to the building where he lives.
At the very heart of poverty, at least at the heart of most of North American poverty, is a lack of connection. A lack of relationship with other human beings. This is often the pain that cuts so deep that when things begin to go wrong, there is no one left to call. This is why Gil and I are cycling/running 100 Miles on September 20th. Not only are we trying to raise awareness and funds to allow the work of Sanctuary London to continue, but we also want to experience a day of potentially painful endurance so that we can relate to and stand in solidarity with so many of our friends whose daily lives are battles of endurance.