Archive for September, 2018

Sep 24 2018

October Journal – In Our Own Voices: What does it mean to be a People of Sanctuary?

Published by under Minister's Musings

In Our Own Voices

October 2018: What does it mean to be a People of Sanctuary?

The Practice of Finding Sacred Space Within

and Ensuring Welcoming Space for All


“In Our Own Voices” captures congregants’ thoughts and feelings on the theme of the month. This year, our Worship Associates offer their first responses to each theme. May these words inspire you, too, to ask:

  • How does this theme relate to my life?
  • What does it inspire in me?
  • How does it trouble or perplex me?
  • How can it help us to live our Unitarian Universalist faith?


Safety and Comfort

  • Protect. Shelter. Retreat—as in a safe place to gather.
  • Sanctuary = Safety. Sanctuary is where you feel safe from whatever threatens you.
  • Comfort of familiarity
  • Sanctuary has many layers. It is comfort and solace to those within the community. AND political and physical safety to those within and outside our community. We can provide sanctuary from hate and rejection.
  • A quiet space in which to think and meditate.
  • A place of silence and peace. A place of safety from ICE and other predators. A physical place like a church sanctuary or church building. Could also be a policy that governs the behavior of police officers to protect vulnerable immigrants from deportation. Could be a place for all people to be with others where everyone can be their whole selves without reservation. Judgment-free space where acceptance is expected. Could also be an internal space opened up through quiet meditation and prayer.
  • El refugio—“refuge” in Spanish. A place to come back to, again and again, where love and affection are found. I thought of the elements of our sacred space: a round, circular space with a labyrinth; with music, natural light, a dome; with a pulpit—a place for voice, spoken words; with a place for storytelling, for children; a safe place, the safety to grow and take risks.
  • Catholics refer to the area around the altar as the sanctuary—the holiest part of the church. What makes the sanctuary we offer holy or sacred? Is sacrifice necessary?


Sacred Space Within

  • Sanctuary as “sacred space within”—a practice that evolves and grows
  • Do you have to find sacred space within yourself before you can offer sanctuary to another?
  • Creating a sacred space within myself where other spiritual perspectives can be respected and honored in a way that invites thoughtful expression


A Welcoming Space for All

  • Our church should express acceptance for all (of course, we do this). Welcome all. Minister to all.
  • Church should be a sanctuary, but how willing are we to be a sanctuary for all? Sometimes certain people need to be asked to leave (like the person who was a danger to children several decades ago). Do we require change of some people in order for them to be in our sanctuary?
  • A place for role playing, practicing how to be an ally, how to intervene in a conflict
  • Safe space, anti-bullying


Many Kinds of Sanctuary

  • I find that nature either on a trail or in a garden is sacred space for me.
  • We refer to a park or preserve as a sanctuary.  What is similar and what is different in what we offer?
  • “Nesting”—particularly just before someone goes into labor
  • For years, I would come home from school, set my books down, and immediately take off my dress and change into jeans, which were a kind of sanctuary from what the world wanted me to be and do.
  • Poem my daughter wrote in second grade:


quiet now

not reading

             out loud

going to bed

and sleeping

at night

not shouting

in bed.

Comments Off on October Journal – In Our Own Voices: What does it mean to be a People of Sanctuary?

Sep 24 2018

October Journal – Taking it Home: Creating Sanctuary

Published by under Minister's Musings

Taking It Home: Creating Sanctuary

by Rev. Nancy Palmer Jones, with help from the Soul Matters Sharing Circle


During this two-year Interim Period, we here at the First Unitarian Church of San José will be diving into the nitty-gritty of how we can best embody our Unitarian Universalist faith. And like the old joke about “how do you get to Carnegie Hall,” we can only strengthen our capacity to live the life-saving, life-giving core of Unitarian Universalism through “Practice, Practice, Practice”!

So each month, I’m offering “Taking It Home,” suggestions about how to turn our monthly themes into practical, life-changing guides. I hope you and your family will try on these exercises. Often they will deepen our worship experiences, too. Here are two for this month’s theme of “What does it mean to be a people of Sanctuary?”


Building an Altar to Sanctuary for October’s Worship

Sanctuary comes to us in many forms. This exercise invites us to meditate on the gifts of our many sanctuaries. Over the next few days and weeks, notice all the various places, spaces, relationships, and experiences that function and have functioned as sanctuary for you. Where, when, or with whom do you find peace, grounding, inspiration, and the chance to be your most authentic self? Do you find sanctuary here at FUCSJ, for instance? Do you find it by the ocean or in the woods? Do you find it in conversation with your best friend, or when you are immersed in a good book or movie, or when you are out for a run?

Here’s the crucial part: As you remember and notice these sanctuaries, identify a symbol or token that represents them. For instance, collect a picture of the person who has been sanctuary for you. If it’s a physical space like your home, pick a small object that represents it. If it’s a park or beach where you love to sit or walk, choose a picture or print out a description; bring a leaf or shell if it’s OK to pick one up. If it’s your garden, choose a spray of flowers or herbs that you have grown.

Please bring these symbols of your sanctuaries to worship with you on October 7, 14, and 21, and add them to our joint altar. Much like the annual creation of our Day of the Dead altar, we will create a space that represents inspiration and grounding for all of us—a visual and tactile place that can strengthen our spirits and fuel our actions. Pulling all our diverse sanctuaries into one space helps anchor us in the truth that life itself is more of a sanctuary than we sometimes think.


Creating a Sanctuary at the End of Each Day

Many of us have “morning rituals of sanctuary.” We meditate, take the dog for a walk, do some yoga, cook, or read something special. We start the day with a sense of grounding and inspiration.

Psychologists tell us that ending the day with the experience of sanctuary can be even more important. This month, find a practice that lets you end your day with sanctuary. The following article, called “Evening Ritual: The 7 Things That Will Make You Happy at Night,” offers ideas and explanations about why this is key to spiritual centeredness:


A Word of Assurance

Friends, I too have trouble fitting a new practice into my life, especially in these times when everything feels urgent. But an old spiritual truth says that such times are exactly when we most need to slow down, pay attention, and take the time to do what needs to be done. To be loving and effective in our jobs, families, and friendships, in our congregation and communities, we need to be grounded, to find inspiration, and to stay in touch with our most authentic self. So won’t you please be accountability partners with me, checking in about how our “practice” is going?

I can’t wait to experience the peace and grounding we will create.


With love and faith,

Rev. Nancy

Comments Off on October Journal – Taking it Home: Creating Sanctuary