Our History

An (Unauthorized) History of Sanctuary Boston

In 2012, Young Adult musicians and seminarians came together to imagine a different kind of worship gathering in the Boston area. We loved the values of Unitarian Universalism, but we wanted worship that felt different than many of us experienced on Sunday mornings. We wanted to create a new kind of worship that expressed our faith through music and ritual, and invited spiritual growth through community and real connection.

Sanctuary Boston began not only as an experiment in a new kind of worship gathering, but as a new kind of collaboration of UU organizations in the Boston area. First Church Boston in the back Bay and First Parish Cambridge both agreed to offer space, supplies, and staff support for gatherings. The UU Funding Program approved a startup grant for our first three years. The UU Association provided consultation and other support.

Fall 2011 ~ Dave began 1:1 conversations about the idea of a new UU worship community. 
May 1, 2012 ~ First meeting of the planning team for “The Chalice Project”
Oct 18, 2012 ~ First worship gathering
June 2013 ~ Worship at UUA GA in Providence
Fall 2015 ~ Incorporated as an independent non-profit, formed a Board of Directors
Winter 2016 ~ First community retreat
2017 ~ First Sanctuary survey
March 2020 ~ Pivot to completely online worship
Sept 2021 ~ Fully virtual and in-person worship services
2021 ~ Became an official Covenanting Community in affiliation with the UUA
2022 ~ Celebrated ten years of Sanctuary!

Host Churches

Both First Parish Cambridge and First Church Boston have been very generous with their shared resources as we imagine a better world together. We currently meet on the first Wednesday evening of every month at First Parish Cambridge, and the third Wednesday of the month at First Church Boston. 

Our worship space at First Parish Cambridge in Harvard Square.

Over the past decade, both congregations have offered support in a variety of ways outside of financial support and the use of building spaces. They have donated custodian and ministerial intern hours, invited/hired Sanctuary to provide music and worship for Sunday morning services, met with our leaders to discuss collaborations through social justice, small groups, and covenant, and shared information about Sanctuary through various methods of communication. We thank First Church Boston and First Parish Cambridge to their contributions, and look forward to another decade of partnership with them! 

Our old worship space at First Church Boston. As we’ve expanded and included COVID-19 safety precautions, we now meet downstairs in the sanctuary, or outside on the steps of FCB.

Small Groups

Sanctuary small groups were originally developed as part of the young adult fellowship at First Church Boston in 2014. At first, there was only one group, but by spring 2015, another was added. Over the next five years, two small groups would meet every fall/spring for real connection and deep sharing around various topics, with the support of volunteer facilitators. In spring 2020, when the two groups pivoted to online meetings, two “emergency” check-in groups were added. By the fall, there were five groups. The expansion allowed us to offer affinity and topic groups: one for parents, another on anti-racism for white people, and a third on feminism for men. In spring of 2021, we added additional groups for young adults and LGBTQIA+ people. Our small group ministry is one of our proudest achievements, and is maintained by a stream of dedicated volunteers and our small group coordinator, Laura Hatfield. 

Campus Ministry

Sanctuary’s campus ministry program was started in the fall of 2021 through a grant from the UU Funding Program. Through 1:1 conversations, student-specific events, and pizza parties before Sanctuary worship services, we have welcomed undergraduate and graduate students from Harvard, Northeastern, Berklee, Wellesley, BU, BC, MIT, Brandeis, and other schools to the Sanctuary community this year. Additionally, students and younger adults from Oregon, Washington, California, Indiana, Michigan, Connecticut, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and more have attended virtual worship services. Members of our campus ministry program have taken community leadership roles in organizing the retreat, coordinating the Sanctuary survey, helping to lead community singing, and facilitating small groups. Our students are a welcome part of our community! Our campus ministry program is run by Karishma Gottfried.