Summer Worships at The Sanctuary

Did you miss some or maybe even all of  summer worship with The Sanctuary Boston? Well if you did, or if you want to revisit some of the themes and issues we explored together these past three months, check out these summer worship highlights! Not only did we not go “on vacation,” we dug deeper and stretched further; deeper within our hearts and further beyond some of our many borders…

In June, Robin Barlett Barraza called upon us to take our work to build Beloved Community, “Out Beyond These Walls,” of the physical Sanctuaries we inhabit. We so often channel our energy to become more like (or look more like) the Beloved Community we dream of, into the small world of our churches. She reminded us of King’s admonition that church is not a club, but a launching place of transformation. For spiritual community to launch us into transformation, and not just be a spiritual escape, we must use our time together in community, Robin suggested, to train our gaze and hearts upon the great Beloved Community building work in the world beyond our church walls:

“We must treat one another as though our lives depend on their lives. If we treat people that way not just with polite distance but as though we know how much each person we encounter matters each person no matter how foreign, how rich, how poor, how different than us each person matters is beloved we will be practicing the ethic of beloved community.” MLK

We can start practicing this ethic here and now today. We can practice in our churches an in the streets.That’s the good news. We can practice this here and now because every time two people are in the room you have diversity.

Each of us has a story to tell about who we are that is capable of transforming who WE are. Our tender listening to the stories of other human beings we encounter and our willingness to find ourselves in all of them…the humility it takes for us to allow ourselves to be transformed by these stories …this courage and humility and tenderness is already practicing the ethics of building beloved community.

…But if we are only practicing this ethic in our churches, we are missing the point. The church’s end goal cannot be simply to build beloved community within our walls. No. …Our churches must reflect the world we live in so that we might as effectively as humanly possible–practice the ethics of beloved community here for use OUTSIDE THESE WALLS.

In July, Michaela Romano-Meade tackled the challenging practice of acceptance, of “Wanting What Is,” and did so in the midst of a particularly challenging time for engaging that practice for many within our community– the wake of the acquittal of George Zimmerman. She told her story of being evacuated from Mali in the Spring of 2012 when there was a sudden “coup d’état.” As she told us, after fourteen months, though only halfway through her time there, “In one fell swoop I lost my home, my job, my Peace Corps community and my Malian family.”

Michaela’s journey to acceptance was filled with just the opposite and a great deal of grief. But wrestling with the challenge of acceptance has helped reveal to her the power therein for deeper transformation.

Accepting my evacuation from Mali means accepting that I lost 13 months with people that I love, doing work that inspires me. It also means accepting that I got to share 14 months with people that I love, doing work that inspires me. It means accepting that I forged bonds with people I will love for the rest of my life and that I am loved by them. It means accepting that I experienced the beauty and strength of community.

Whatever happens. Whatever
what is is is what
I want. Only that. But that.
“Prayer” – Galway Kinnell

I do not believe that “wanting what is” means wanting to be torn from a life you love, to have thousands of refugees fleeing their home – scared and hungry, to have a broken justice system or institutionalized racism, homophobia, sexism. I believe “wanting what is” simply means wanting your whole life.  Choosing life. Taking in the good along with the broken. Taking one step forward no matter what it looks like to others or how small it may seem, even if it means taking a step more fully into your pain. Being able to see your blessings and lean into gratitude even during times of grief and sorrow.  Accepting “what is” allows us to stop trying to control situations we have no control over, gives us the opportunity to see truly what is broken, wounded, and in need of healing in our communities and frees us from what was, so that we can make new choices and take action to heal our broken places, hopefully with a bit more peace and calm in our hearts. So may it be.

Then in August, we took our worship physically beyond the walls of First Parish in Cambridge to the Cambridge Common, teaming up with FPC’s Immigration Task Force to explore the borders within and between each of us. We were conscious particularly of how these borders have been made manifest through the issue of immigration, but we reflected on how such borders define so much of our lives… Karin Lin shared reflections on her family’s story of immigration and then we told each other our own stories of immigration, before experiencing a taste of the separation we so commonly inflict upon one another.

When I visited the Arizona-Sonora border in 2011, I looked through a section of the border wall at a neighborhood very much like the one in which I grew up.  The separation felt artificial, as though someone had randomly drawn a line separating me from part of my family.  For many, though, this separation is painfully real and sometimes permanent.

So as our nation wrestles with an immigration policy that will have enormous ramifications for millions living within our national boundaries, I realize that the borders that matter aren’t the lines on the map or even the walls of steel.

They’re the borders in our hearts.  They’re the fences we’ve all put up around us so we can tell ourselves that the people on the other side are less than we are and that we don’t need to share with them our wealth, our land, our community, our respect, our love.  They’re the borders within.

Each of us runs up against invisible walls that keep us apart from others.  Despite my U.S. passport, the color of my hair and the shape of my eyes make it difficult for some of my fellow citizens to see me as a full American.  Despite my doctorate in physics, my gender makes it impossible for some of my fellow scientists to see me as an equal colleague.  And despite the blood I share with my Taiwanese cousins, my inability to speak their language fluently prevents them from seeing me as a real member of their family.

Each of us also creates walls that keep others apart from us….But each of us, every single one of us, has the power also to cross borders and build bridges.  …As a person of faith, I believe that we are called to challenge the forces that seek to divide us. When we remove the walls within our hearts, the walls outside will fall…

Chicana poet Gina Valdés wrote, “Hay tantísimas fronteras que dividen a la gente, pero por cada frontera existe tambien un puente.”  

“There are so many borders that divide people, but for every border there exists also a bridge.”  May we all have the courage, the wisdom, and the faith to be those bridges. Amen and Blessed Be.

And, Denise Garcia, chair of the Immigration Task Force, who co-created the “Borders Within” worship, shared these final words of reflection:

I’m the great grandchild of Polish, German, and English immigrants and the spouse of a Mexican immigrant.

We’ve encountered different borders in our worship tonight — those physically constructed by the U.S., those constructed by others or perhaps those we’ve constructed ourselves.

U.S. borders were practically wide open for the first 100 years of this nation and have become more and more closed as waves of immigrants have come seeking sanctuary.

Why did they come? Why did my ancestors or your ancestors come? Why did you or your parents come? What events were happening or policies being put in place around the world when they emigrated? 

In truth, emigration is often the result of economic injustices, natural disasters, environmental changes, war, military coups, religious persecution, the persecution for one’s LGBTQ identity, and often violence. This isn’t the romanticized story of coming for a better life. It’s more likely one of loss and pain in leaving one’s home — a bittersweet history. 

Think about your ancestors, as newly arrived immigrants. Were they welcomed with open arms or told “you’re not welcome here,” or both? Do you know this family history? Were they displacing American Indians? 

How can we honor and acknowledge our immigration stories and those of today’s aspiring Americans? How can we create a society that is more open… and less fearful, instead of building walls and pushing people out?

Perhaps it’s a matter of opening up to this issue on a personal level to start…Faith calls for us to be neighborly; to be (for example) the “Good Samaritan.” I invite you to do just that. Be more neighborly. More vulnerable. More open…

Will we notice the immigrant who cleans our offices or takes care of the neighbors children? Will we notice that the medicine or technologies we use and consume have been created by immigrants? 

How can we embrace their stories and lives? How can we welcome them and recognize the sanctuary that they are?

If each of us risks being vulnerable, and slows down in our hurried lives — I believe we can finally begin to break down these walls we’ve constructed. And so I invite you to learn more about immigration and connect to people and organizations working on this issue.

If each one of us takes these steps, I believe we can open up and hopefully move from individual action to collective action.  …And we can begin to Stand on the Side of Love. 

In order to help Sanctuary folks get more informed and involved on immigration, Denise has provided these great resources!  

Would your ancestors be able to migrate to the U.S. under today’s laws? Find out! –

The Lost Immigration Debate –

Local Organizations

Student Immigrant Movement –

Centro Presente –

Chelsea Collaborative –

Chinese Progressive Association –

Brazilian Immigrant Center –

MataHari Eye of the Day –

Resist the Raids – (a collective of orgs) –

MIRA Coalition –

Boston New Sanctuary Movement –

National Organizations

Detention Watch Network –

Reform Immigration for America –

National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) –

Presente –

National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights –


Osvaldo’s story:

Video stories of immigrants in Massachusetts:

Poetry, Music and Art

Offended Turf:

Border Songs:

Voice of Art, Migration is Beautiful (videos): Part 1 –, Part 2 –, Part 3 –


Migration Policy Institute –

Immigration Policy Center –


VICTORY: Federal Court Rules Immigration Detainees Deserve Fair Hearings:

US activist fights to help immigrants survive:

17 Powerful Images of Dreamers Blocking a Bus and Trying to Stop the Deportation of Undocumented Immigrants –

UUA Immigration News Archive –