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CHRISTIAN LIFE IN LONDON | NOVEMBER 2022 EDITION
Sanctuary London - Finding Home Together
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Published April 2022
By Carolyn Brackett



Isaiah 61:1-4 NKJV The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.

To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified."


"At Sanctuary, we are becoming a healthy, welcoming community where people who are poor or excluded are particularly valued. This community is an expression of the good news embodied in Christ" says Sanctuary London co-founder and Executive Pastor Darryl Reckman.

Nestled in the atrium at the newly renovated Talbot Street Christian Reformed Church, 513 Talbot Street, Sanctuary London welcomes members of the Sanctuary community, many houseless, throughout the week to be fed not just with hearty nutritious meals for their bodies, but also their spirits with the bread of the Word through Bible studies and worship services, and their souls (mind, will and emotions) with inspiring and creative programs.

To many of its friends, both those who participate in Sanctuary and the team who facilitate it are considered friends, what makes Sanctuary a home is the ambiance of connection and relationships experienced in a home. With the advent of spring and the last vestiges of Covid 19 dissipating from everyday life, Reckman is particularly encouraged with the renewal of meeting together and most importantly reconnecting friendships among the members.

Despite the severe limitations, Sanctuary was able to stay open every day during the pandemic lockdowns, providing take out meals and masked smiles. But the one-on-one fellowship of breaking bread over conversation, the friendship of participating in programs and the intimacy of worship services was put on hold for over two years and those relationships and trust must now be rebuilt. “We are happy to be welcoming the family back home,” says Reckman,” “not just to a centre but to the safe place Sanctuary is.”

Reckman believes Sanctuary does not give just himself and his team a reason to get up in the morning but also to the friends, many of whom will unwrap themselves from sleeping bags to find their way the site.

Reckman is frustrated with the commodification and financialization of housing that makes affordable housing so difficult for its members to attain and he is working with leaders in the community to make it more accessible. In the meantime, he and the members have to be satisfied with the home they have created at Sanctuary. They may still be houseless but are no longer homeless.

Beginnings
Reckman and associate Gil Clelland started Sanctuary London 12 years ago to establish a semblance of having a home for the many houseless in London who don’t need just a place to sleep, although that is important, but also a family.

Programs
Realizing regular meals are important to both the body and the spirit, Sanctuary offers in house meals twice a week. Monday Lunch

Friends are invited into the Sanctuary space to share a meal, play cards, have a coffee, and get to know one another Mondays from 11 a.m. to 3p.m. with lunch served at noon.

“We sense that the greatest need of all people is to be connected to others. Drop-in is a space for all people to connect, feel loved, and welcomed. We will not use the word “client” for the people who attend – we much prefer the word “friend.”

Bible Study
Lunch is followed by an optional Bible study from 3 to 4 p.m. Participants dive into the Scriptures a little deeper in a small group setting. It’s a safe place to search for answers to some of life’s deepest and toughest questions. While they try to follow a book of the Bible, no topics or issues are out of bounds.

Wednesday drop in and community meal
A Wednesday drop in and community meal is offered Wednesdays from 2 to 8:45 p.m. A “family style” dinner begins at 5:30 p.m.

“Drop ins create a sense of home with friends and family getting together,” says Reckman.

Visual Arts and Creative Writing
Thursdays are all about feeding the soul with a Visual Arts and Creative Writing studio from 1 to 3 p.m. offered at 531 Talbot Street.

“One of the greatest losses a person experiencing poverty feels is the loss of their voice and creativity. They feel like their voice does not matter, is not worth listening to, and should be silenced. We offer space and time (through guided teaching) to allow our friends to express themselves once again,” says Reckman. Donations of art and writing supplies are always welcome to enhance and maintain the programs.

Sunday Worship Service
“We remain determined to centre our week on growing in understanding (including allowing questions) of God and His Scriptures. As a group we enjoy the intimacy of the worship as we celebrate being a part of the Body of Christ And we sense that worship is the essence of any community. It is at the feet of Jesus’ cross that we can be real, feel broken, renewed, called, forgiven, and loved.” The community meets weekly Sunday evenings from 4 to 8 p.m. Pre-worship fellowship with coffee is enjoyed from 4 to 5:30 pm followed by the service at 5:30 p.m. A potluck meal is enjoyed on the first Sunday of each month at 4 p.m.

Generous Space
A bi-weekly Generous Space group at Sanctuary is offered for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. This is an opportunity to ask hard questions and explore what faith might look like for people who may not feel welcome in other contexts.

Sanctuary Homes
  • Four people.
  • One house.
  • Becoming one family.
  • Finding HOME. Together

Sanctuary believes a true home is much more than just a house, or an apartment to live in, but a safe place to hang your hat is still an important aspect of home. Since they began the Sanctuary London project, it has always been the dream to provide affordable and sustainable housing for those in the community who need it the most. In Sanctuary’s sixth year that dream became a reality when the use of a semi-detached house in downtown London with two units of four bedrooms each. A second duplex followed. Today those houses are home to four men on one side, and two ladies on the other in each.

The houses are not simply “rooms for rent”, but are true homes, with a family-style set up and feel. Residents enjoy shared living areas, and the family members work together to cook and clean.

The houses are not staffed, but each house has a facilitator from the Sanctuary staff who direct monthly house meetings and make themselves available to help cultivate a healthy and loving environment where each member is safe and feeling supported. Each family member also covenants to meet regularly with a personal mentor. The Sanctuary homes are not intended to be halfway houses. Permanence is an extremely important aspect of home, and therefore, as long as the family continues to be a good fit with one another and there are no other issues, the intent is for the family units to stay together for as long as they themselves would like.

Availability. From time to time a spot may open up in one of the houses. Interested individuals who would like to join one of the family homes can speak with Reckman or one of the staff.

Partnership in housing
Anyone interested in partnering with Sanctuary in opening up another community house, please speak with Reckman to any one of the staff.

Donations To Sanctuary London
Sanctuary London is a church. However, because a large portion of the members of the community are living near or below the poverty line, Sanctuary is constantly in need of financial support from individuals from the Greater Church Community to help them continue reaching out to those who are the least among us.

Tangible donations of new or gently used clean sleeping bags and tents, coats, socks and comfortable clothing are always welcome. As are flats of bottled water, especially during the heat of the upcoming summer.

For information on donating go to https://www.sanctuarylondon.ca/getting-involved/donations/

Last thoughts
“If you keep your eyes peeled, you may spot one of our staff, or one of the many other people from the Sanctuary community sitting in a local downtown coffee shop, or on the street corner, or even under a bridge, fellowshipping with people who, for whatever reason, are considered to be the “least among us” within our city. We leave “our space” and enter the area where our friends feel most comfortable. We walk, meeting people on their own turf, greet people who are new to the city, and over time build up relationships of trust. Rarely do we hand out anything on these walks. We want to establish friendships based on mutuality, not provision of services,” says Reckman.

For more information about Sanctuary London, what they do, how you can become a part of the work, or how you can give, go to https://www.sanctuarylondon.ca or contact

Sanctuary London
531 Talbot Street
London, ON N6A 2S5
548-688-4663 (HOME)