A Sanctuary - Hope, Nourishment, Calm

Laura Miller April 17, 2023 3 2
A Sanctuary - Hope, Nourishment, Calm

Laura Miller blogs about her experience of discovering Sanctuary First.


During the period of lockdowns, the world embraced the online world like a security blanket. For many it began a period of working from home and adopting new practices in an unfamiliar set up.

There were deeply mixed emotions as we snuggled into seeing our loved ones on a screen and not physically face to face. I imagine we all had to stretch hard internally to find satisfaction in this uneasy relationship with technology.

I already had a group of friends I’d made online via Facebook. Launching into periods of isolation had been my reality for decades. I have long-term health conditions that have led to times of being housebound with crushing regularity. Like the rest of my disabled friends online, we had already adopted virtual relationships as a normal outlet.

We were used to gleaning fun from posting ridiculous memes to each other, or pouring our woes into pockets of the internet. The birth of celebrating in worship on Zoom met a need I already had. It awoke an unknown desire to see if it were possible to not only do church online, but to build that into genuine Christian communities.

As the world began to rejoin with each other and slowly emerge from the pandemic, my friends and I began to grieve.

Our time of others sharing in our online territory felt threatened. I was among the disabled community that had realised I was facing losing this tentative time worshiping online. My health still required me to semi-shield. How was I going to cope without the access that church on Zoom had given me?

I stumbled into Sanctuary First via snippets I had seen on Facebook. As I began exploring the resources on their website I realised there was already a wealth of videos and podcasts available.

Perhaps your journey into this community is marked by mixed emotions? What have you found comforting in this Sanctuary? Seeing videos of friendly faces who pray with sincerity has been an oasis of calm. Listening to podcasts that introduce me to new voices provides company to my mind and soul. I can inject times of worship into my life as I listen to music that uplifts my heart.

The more I listened and read about Sanctuary First, the more curious I got. The appeal of having fellowship online is not just that it can be a tool to combat loneliness, it can open up opportunities world-wide. It looks as though the adjustments that have been made during the pandemic have left their mark. There are now organisations offering hybrid meetings where people can attend in person whilst including participants online.

How can we transform the lives of those around us using these new tools? Can we truly love one another through these virtual resources? Is it possible to minister to one another online with the limitations involved?

What about our relationship with other countries? Other communities? My own heart is broken by the needs in the disabled community. It only takes a glance at the news to realise that further isolation and poverty is striking this community hard. The need for developing outreach to communities like mine is vital. Just like any developed community we have a culture and language that joins us. Being involved with my friends provides ample opportunities to discuss matters of the soul. We have made a form of peace with our online lives. For us it has provided a network of support that can reach through walls both physical and emotional.

We need to be loved and involved in life, and be fed and challenged spiritually. Perhaps because I spend most of my time at home, it becomes easier to imagine the cries of others seeking the wholeness that Jesus talked of. All of us tasted the boredom of cabin fever during the lockdowns. Not only did the threat of depression become a daily battle, the need to pray for those trapped in isolation grew stronger.

By interacting with Sanctuary First my prayer life has not just deepened, it has gotten noisier! Have you ever been so burdened by need of fellowship, you crumbled in pain? Deep within the core of us there is a cry for genuine relationships. How can we meet that need whilst the world keeps casting up a weary pile of post-pandemic aftermath?

I am both intrigued and challenged by the concept of finding sanctuary with people I may never physically meet. Jesus was no stranger to isolation. His life was marked with times of overwhelming crowds swarming around Him, interspersed with times in the desert to seek His Father’s face.

There are risks involved in developing any form of fellowship. The same crowds that cheered Jesus on and rejoiced in Him included those who would jeer and sneer at His crucifixion. He risked His life to befriend disciples, and renew their relationship with their Creator.

As much as I relish the challenges in growing through resources online, I am aware there are risks. What risks have you taken by engaging in fellowship with strangers you may never meet? Has it taken your heart time to adjust to ministry through a screen?

All forms of church have their risks and conundrums. There are often more questions than answers. I would hope that Sanctuary First could continue to be a home for hearts aching for consolation and thirsting for more.

May today give you the courage to reflect on what your heart needs right now. If there was anything predictable about this post-pandemic time, it is that so much is unpredictable. Where can we find the stability to cope?

Perhaps there are cries in your heart that feel impossible to pray. Whether it be in private, or with a trusted friend, may you be provided with a time of deeper fellowship with the Creator. He longs to hear your voice. It is His compassion that drives us to engage with each other.

So my prayer today would be that God would meet you in amongst emails and private messaging. Whether it is watching TikTok, or YouTube or scrolling on Google, may you find food from your Creator. There may be a bundle of tasks you have ahead of you, that daunt and diminish you. So may there be times of delight and renewal of hope through unexpected means.

Laura Miller