Sanctuary, on a personal level,
is where we perform the job of taking care of our soul.”

Christopher Forrest McDowell

(interior of the Cathedral of Notre Dame / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

The first time I was made aware of the concept of sanctuary
as in the meaning of the word as a verb of action verses a noun of place,
was when, as a little girl, I watched the 1939 movie the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
It didn’t matter that it was an old black and white movie made 20 years before I was born…
it was and still remains, just as the original story itself, a classic.

This 1939 classic starring Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara, based on the Victor Hugo novel of the same name, left a powerful and lasting impression on my youthful mind.
That being…
a church, The Church, can protect anyone asking it to…

Maureen O’Hara played the role of Esmeralda, the beautiful gypsy girl, falsely accused of practicing witchcraft as well as murder.
Charles Laughton played the deformed bell keeper, Quasimodo, who had fallen in love with the beautiful Esmeralda.

One of the pivotal and overtly theatrical moments in the film is when Esmeralda, whose hands are bound as a rope hangs around her neck, is being led to the gallows on a horse drawn cart as she is about to be publicly hung for the crimes of witchcraft and murder.
A huge procession marches forth from the church as choirs sing and bells toll…for the people of Paris have gathered to witness the public hanging of this poor young girl.

Quasimodo, who is perched high aloft along the ledge of the bell tower, looks down at the proceedings and grabs hold of a rope…
Miraculously to the astonished crowd, Quasimodo swings down, just in the nick of time, grabbing Esmeralda from the clutches of the gallows master. He then swings back up to the safety of both bell tower and Church where, holding a now limp Esmeralda who has fainted…he lifts her high over his head for all the crowd to see while crying out “Sanctuary, Sanctuary…”
Letting all those gathered below know that the girl in now safe within the arms of the church because those who enter a church, seeking sanctuary, are protected from the masses and the authorities outside the walls of her building’s structure.

The concept of a church, the physical structure, offering safety to those at risk… resonated deeply in my thoughts….
As it seems that for centuries the collective body of The Church has been a place of protection and safety to not only our spiritual beings, but to our physical being as well.

Yesterday, when reading a recent news article about the growing security worries now facing our churches and places of worship, I imagined that moment long ago of Quasimodo yelling “Sanctuary

Back in April, it seems that during a daily worship service at an Orthodox Church in Riverside, California, several young mothers had excused themselves from the service as they carried their crying infants outside as not to disturb the remainder of the service.
As the women stood outside the church chatting, while holding their babies, a car appears out of the blue pulling up close to the sidewalk where the women stood.
The windows of the car are rolled down as several men with bullhorns hang out from the windows and are heard to shout Allauh Akbar…
The startled women stare in disbelief while holding their children tightly to their chests…
all the while as a feeling of dread washes over them.
And yet just as quickly as the car appeared, it drives off leaving the women shaken.

Since this incident in April, numerous houses of worship, churches and synagogues around the globe have had similar unsettling incidents to occur—
Most notably being the recent attack on Father Jaques Hamel.
The attack took place in a quiet catholic church on the outskirts of Rouen, when two young men interrupted the service grabbing Fr Hamel and slashing his throat in front of horrified parishioners.

There have also been reported acts of vandalism, break-ins and incidents where churches have received anonymous written threats of violence.

But attacks on Churches and Synagogues is sadly nothing new.

Our houses of worship, although representing something much larger and greater than mere man himself, can fall victim to acts of evil intent just as easily as the average person.

In times past, just as in this present time, there have been fire bombings on buildings, desecrations of buildings, attacks and sadly murders on both clergy and parishioners…
As it is becoming much more alarming and worrisome that these sorts of incidents are on the rise…
No longer seemingly the random act of evil and madness, but now more and more the deliberate growing act of hatred.

Whereas there was a time when the Church as a whole was revered and respected, a place in which the lost, the sorrowful and the frightened could find refuge….
that simply is no longer the expected given.

Yet whereas the building and the bodies of believers themselves may come under attack—we are not without hope—for the blood of the Lamb remains our refuge and sanctuary no matter what may befall a physical building or our physical body…

SANCTUARY indeed!!!!

‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Although I sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, yet for a little while I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.’
Ezekiel 11:16

7 comments on “sanctuary

  1. Wally Fry says:

    Great post Julie. I’ve sort of been mulling it over. The issue of self protection has come up in our church, in fact.

    I have no problem with guns…none. I have one standing by quite ready near my bed at all times. Not loaded, but can be in seconds. I even have a plan on how thing will happen if somebody barges in. Sadly, even in our area, we have had two home invasion robberies lately, so the concern is very real.

    Church.We have quite a few people who have concealed carry licenses among us. I don’t. But, it came up for discussion if we wanted to consider, as a church, authorizing them to carry in church.

    Eh..that’s bothersome to me on a lot of ways. If they have it, fine, carry it. But, it really doesn’t need to be an official church policy. That make sense?

    • I think I just hit like about 50 times because the star wouldn’t register I had hit it—gees—
      now on to your concerns…
      It is something when we have to have the discussion in our churches of concealed weapons and security guards—It all makes me think of the synagogues in Europe, especially in Germany during the rise of the Nazis–the faithful were not safe attending services—even today, in places I’ve traveled, I have passed many an ancient and beautifully old synagogue with armed security guards standing out front and cameras mounted above the doorways.
      Growing up in Atlanta—the door to the Episcopal Cathedral I attended was always unlocked—anyone could go in and worship and pray any time day or night—those days are long past—first it was burglary, robbery and now threats of violence—-
      My first trip to New York when I was in college was a huge wakeup call—I had gone into St Patrick’s Cathedral and when I walked out, I had no wallet.
      Groups of pick pockets worked the church–
      Sacredness to one, is not sacredness to another…and that cold thought is now morphing into a dangerous mindset of indifference and vehemence….
      The physical body is no longer what she was–it must now be left the the body of believers to fight the good fight

      • Wally Fry says:

        First that like thing was funny.

        Yes, you hit it right on the head. The simple fact that we have to have the conversation is just insane.

        Sigh. I just can’t get my head around it.

        If somebody came in ours, Pretty sure I’d preach at the guy as I peeled his face off LOL.

        I do think about that stuff all of the time. Being raised in the city, one learns to have a very enhanced sense of situational awareness. At any given time, I have plotted out how I might react under different scenarios.

      • crazy that we have to even think like that—after 9 / 11… I no longer go into a mall with the same sense of idelmindedness or focused need of getting what it is I came for—I think twice about if I really need to go, I consider the day, the time and then I’m cautious the whole time there—…and I am not a paranoid person whatsoever!!—I still fly, still visit other countries, still go boldy where no one has gone before (I don’t even like Star Trek)—but it is with a great deal of trepidation and reservation….
        One the one hand, I want to be bold and say that I will not let the bad people win…on the other hand, I don’t want to wind up in the middle of their craziness!!
        As for our churches and synagogues —that young man in Charleston tells us that any loose cannon can change things forever, doesn’t necessarily have to be a terrorist—it’s just that the pot of potential for bad seems to now be multiplying at a dangerous rate of speed–

  2. This stupid thing is acting up again. So I don’t know if you’ll get this or not. Great post and I hope you are feeling better! 🙂 ❤

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