Finding sanctuary when buildings are closed
In many parts of the world, churches (and other public spaces) are closed in compliance with governmental regulations. But wherever we are and whomever we are (or aren’t) with, each of us can experience the sanctuary of divine joy, comfort, and healing.
Like so many churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques, my local Church of Christ, Scientist, has suspended in-person activities to comply with our governor’s stay-at-home order. As our congregation prepared to make this temporary sacrifice of our twice-weekly gatherings, my thought turned to solitary experiences of some of the Bible characters – Daniel’s confinement in the lions’ den and Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness, to name just two.
I think of them as “sanctuary” experiences because these individuals were neither idle nor frustrated by these very testing circumstances, but actively gaining a more solid understanding of the strength and wisdom of the one God. They emerged unscathed, fully prepared for the tasks set before them.
The founder of the Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, describes a solitary but enriching sanctuary experience of her own that lasted for three years. After discovering Christian Science, she “searched the Scriptures and read little else, kept aloof from society, and devoted time and energies to discovering a positive rule. The search was sweet, calm, and buoyant with hope, not selfish nor depressing” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 109). And she was studying, writing, and communing with God while having to move a number of times, staying with friends and acquaintances, or in boarding houses!
So her sanctuary was a spiritual consciousness, a place of peace, reflection, and safety that cannot be overturned, which Jesus urged us to enter into when he described the need to go into our closet when praying to God. Science and Health explains, “The closet typifies the sanctuary of Spirit, the door of which shuts out sinful sense but lets in Truth, Life, and Love” (p. 15).
This willingness to prayerfully go beyond the physical senses and discern the spiritual fact of God’s ever-presence quiets the turmoil of unsettled thinking. It helps us feel and experience safety in God, wherever we may be.
King David conveyed poetically his desire to feel safe wherever he was. Referring to one of his psalms (see Psalms 91:1), Mrs. Eddy wrote, “The ‘secret place,’ whereof David sang, is unquestionably man’s spiritual state in God’s own image and likeness, even the inner sanctuary of divine Science …” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 244).
Whether accessible in person or online, the Christian Science Church provides multiple resources for learning more about everyone’s true nature as God’s safe, peaceful, spiritual offspring – and these resources open the door to healing. While worship services are a twice-weekly resource of inspiration, a cool drink of life-lifting refreshment, we can take part, whatever physical form these services take.
For instance, when I was a kindergartener and on through elementary school, my dad worked for a large company that transferred him frequently to open new territories for its products. Many of the locales were small and remote, with few houses for short-term rental, and what was available was usually modest, to say the least.
Yet my parents, devout Christian Scientists, made every move a wonderful adventure for our family, and each house quickly became a home. If there was no church within driving distance, our living room became a Christian Science church on Sundays and Wednesdays. Sunday School came first, then a service – complete with a cappella hymns and bowed heads for prayer. Neighbors would sometimes accept the invitation to join us, and my parents’ joyful sense of a church home led to the formation of three Christian Science Societies in tiny towns.
To me all of this goes to show that isolation can never deprive us of the fulfillment of church participation and its comforting, healing impact. Wherever we may be, whatever our background, we can let inspiration from the Bible and the writings of Eddy light our consciousness, guide us in our careers, impel harmony in our homes. Even in the current “wilderness” circumstances we can have a fruitful experience: focused study of the Word of God, deeper communion with the Divine, exploring a wealth of resources provided at christianscience.com and JSH-Online.com, even taking the opportunity to share our inspiration with others through testimonies and articles.
And when stay-at-home orders are lifted and public gatherings resume, what we’ve learned from our worship at home can strengthen our church work moving forward.
The foundation of home, sanctuary, church, is one and the same: God, who is divine Spirit and Love. As Jesus once said, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23).
What more could we truly desire than the peace and joy that come when we seek home and temple – and find sanctuary – in the Almighty God and His Christ, Truth?