In light of recent events in the US, we’re reflecting on the meaning of “sanctuary.” Where did the sanctuary city movement come from? What was the role of religious institutions in this movement? And how can we broaden our sense of sanctuary in a way that is meaningful and relevant today?
Sacred Space and Beloved Community
Matilda Cantwell, Interim Director of Religious & Spiritual Life
The Yoga aphorisms of Patanjali from the third century state “what we truly worship we make sacred.” This philosophy rings very true for me. I believe it applies to “worship” in the broadest sense: quiet, alert walks in the woods; moments of meditation or revelation; meaningful conversation and engagement in reading, study, dance, or art; deep and reverent engagement either inside or outside a traditional place of worship.
The Sanctuary Movement: A Brief History
Rhonda Shapiro-Rieser, Interfaith Spiritual Advisor
As a religious concept, “sanctuary” is connected to a sense of holiness and means to be “set apart.” The word sanctuary, when used in the context of political movements, has come to also mean places of physical safety, as in the current designation of Sanctuary Cities. Yet, the roots for this idea come from the the Hebrew Bible bible which recounts the creation of “Cities of Refuge.”
“Sanctuary” at the Center for Religious & Spiritual Life
Emmett Wald, Program Assistant
The meaning of “sanctuary” has evolved significantly over the approximately seven centuries since the word was first coined. The English word comes from the Latin “sanctuarium,” which in turn is derived from “sanctus,” an adjective meaning “holy.” In its original form, a sanctuary was quite literally a holy place—a space for holy worship or a reliquary for holy artifacts.