Tag Archives: Sanctuary

Hope in the heaviness


If you read Erinn’s blog, you’ll know that this has been a heavy week, and it feels like it might get heavier.

Last Wednesday there were two memorials in a row for folks from the Sanctuary community (one of whom also came to The Dale), followed by the death of another Sanctuary member a few days later. I didn’t know any of these three men well, but I know people who did know them well, and am sad for everyone involved. Erinn and I were able to attend one of the two memorials, where we were reminded that there is nothing fair about the way life unfolds, but that if the Beatitudes are true, the most broken WILL be the most blessed in the end. This doesn’t seem to do a whole lot for us or our friends in the present, as we bear witness to the struggles, illnesses, overdoses, accidents, and premature deaths. But if we don’t have this hope, we don’t have much.

I’ve been trying to hold onto this hope, as two beloved Dale folks have been hospitalized in the last week and a half with life threatening situations. Rumours were flying around this morning that one of them had been taken off life support, which is untrue. But the knowledge that this is a real possibility in the coming days or weeks is scary and sad.

Last week I also had difficult encounters with a Sanctuary friend, then a Dale friend a few hours later, while running errands downtown. I left both encounters genuinely and sadly wondering if my presence had had a net positive, neutral or negative impact on my friends. I was reminded of the fact that sometimes there is very little I can do for my friends in the moment, and that my best efforts may backfire. I was reminded that I don’t have all the answers, and I never will.

And yet, I/we hold onto the hope of the Beatitudes, the resurrection, and the coming kingdom.

In the meantime we’ve been given little gifts, like a beautiful, full-sky rainbow during street outreach at the end of the double-memorial day. And wonderful words of encouragement from various folks in the community who remind us that the presence of this little group of strugglers is important and good. And the chance to celebrate my dad’s birthday, with a beautiful bike ride along the water. So in the midst of the heaviness, there are reasons for hope and gratitude.

A beloved one of the gang


The other week I was at a Coffee House at Sanctuary, and Dan (the emcee and one of the original members of Sanctuary) was introducing Greg Paul (the founder and pastor of Sanctuary). He said something like, “and now introducing our beloved… well… our beloved… one of the gang!” My friend Anne, who is married to Dan, leaned over to me and said “If that’s how I’m referred to at my funeral, that would be pretty cool.” I feel exactly the same way. Whether it be at Sanctuary, The Dale, my family, a circle of friends, I just want to be a beloved one of the gang.

Last week Sanctuary lost a deeply beloved one of the gang. Greg “Iggy” Spoon passed away last Tuesday, totally surrounded by family and friends. It was one of the hugest and least deserved honours of my life to have been there in that room, as he left us to join his Creator. I still find it pretty hard to believe that he’s gone, even though I witnessed his departure.

Iggy was most definitely “one of the gang” at Sanctuary. He had been part of the community for a good 12-15 years before I showed up almost 5 years ago. He was an incredible artist, a kind and very loyal friend, an asker of the toughest questions; a hurting and beautiful soul. I hadn’t spent nearly as much time with him over the past couple of years as I did when I was at Wycliffe and interning at Sanctuary, but he still greeted me with warmth, asked how I was doing, and made me feel like a beloved one of the gang. What an incredible gift.

His absence is felt keenly by many, many people, and will continue to be felt. If you could, please join me in praying for good and healthy grieving to happen in the Sanctuary community, his family, and the other circles to which he belonged.



[Greg Paul and Iggy. A beloved two of the gang.]

Being away, and back again


I’ve been away over the past couple of weeks, on a vacation with a dear friend and her family, and then at a wedding of another dear friend. I am so grateful for these trips, and the incredible generosity that made them possible. I am also very happy to be home, back to life at The Dale, and at Sanctuary. These two weeks away gave me plenty of opportunity to rest and be rejuvenated, and also to talk about my beloved communities.

I found myself telling many new people about The Dale, especially at the wedding. I spent a week with 40ish people that I had never (or barely) met, so I had many conversations about who I am and what I do with my time! I was able to explain the philosophy of the Dale, and that fact that I gain just as much and more than I give to the community, as I receive the gifts of others. The consistent response that I got from people was, “Wow, you really seem to love what you do!” It’s true… I really do!

Coming home this week, I was reminded afresh of why I love this community, and the many ways that we work together to weave the fabric that is The Dale. Let me share a few:

– a community member phoned me up to tell me that he’d been offered a bunch of free food that would otherwise go to waste, and wanted to share it with us/the neighbourhood. He came to outreach with a duffel bag full of fresh, packaged sandwiches, which we were able to distribute.
– A bunch of guys in the community pitched in with shoveling, dish washing, and moving some belongings for another community member, all without being asked.
– Folks in the community are always looking out for one another, and this week a number of folks caught me up on some worries they had for others in the community. These weren’t bits of gossip, but honest concerns for mutual friends.

– I also went to dinner drop-in at Sanctuary, and was told by a friend that she’d been praying for me while I was away. She wanted to tell me about her week, which was full of struggles and victories, and also to hear about my trips, know the colour of my bridesmaid’s dress, and see pictures.

It was good to be away, and it’s SO good to be back.

Toronto, the small town


I love outreach. Erinn wrote a great post about outreach yesterday ( http://erinnoxford.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/reason-1001/ ), and last night I had another experience that I’d like to share.

I am part of a number of communities in Toronto outside The Dale, and these communities often overlap in a delightfully symbiotic way. One of these communities is Sanctuary, another church that is particularly welcoming to those on the margins. As I wrote in my “A bit of background” post, Sanctuary is where I got my start in street level ministry in Toronto, and it continues to be a very important community to me in a number of ways.

A large part of Sanctuary’s ministry, like The Dale’s, is outreach. Last night I joined a friend on late-night outreach downtown. It was super (SUPER!) cold, so we stopped in at all the 24-hour McDonalds stores along Yonge Street to warm up, and to check in with folks who were also taking refuge from the cold.

During one of these stops we chatted with a man whom I had met the night before, during outreach in Parkdale! I had to do a double-take, because it seemed a bit unlikely… But sure enough it was him!

On Wednesday night I had invited him to come for lunch on Monday with The Dale, and last night he told me that he planned to be there! He is someone who loves to cook, and told me that he planned to bring some food along to share with us. And he wanted to make sure that my Sanctuary outreach partner got to taste his curry too! He wasn’t satisfied until I committed to taking some of his food home, and delivering it to my friend on the other side of town. It was one of those moments when Toronto really felt like a small town, and the communities that I call home revealed themselves to be connected in a beautiful web.

Like I said, I love outreach!