As a Child Welfare Worker for eleven years, I learned a lot about how children thrive, and how they fail to thrive. One of my clients, “Tanisha” (name changed for privacy), had been brought up in foster care, and because of the bureaucratic mess that is often structured to do almost as much harm as good, she had moved into a few different homes, multiple school changes, and was separated from her only sibling, a younger brother. But because she had an aunt, too young herself to take her in as a caretaker, but old enough and resourced enough to be there for phone calls, visits, holidays and birthdays, she did well. She got scholarships and excelled in the Independent Living Program, where she got her own apartment, a job, and demonstrated that she had taken a whole bunch of lemons and turned them into lemonade.
The reality is that if we have an anchor in our lives, we can endure quite a bit. If we have a sense of consistency and safety, we can excel. And when we are allowed a safe and sacred container where we are truly given encouragement to develop and share our gifts, we are capable of miracles.
Tanisha didn’t have the luxury of a consistent safe and sacred container. She had “just about good enough,” and she ran with it. But watching her, and so many other amazing children who were in similar situations doing the best they could really inspired me. In my studies in psychology I learned that the human spirit is set for growth. On many levels, we are just like seeds. In the right environment, given the right conditions, we can grow and thrive and bare fruit.
I saw the difference between kids who had a safe place to hang out after school and those who were left to fend for themselves. I saw the difference between kids who grew up feeling safe and those who did not.
Healing people heal people
“Hurt people hurt people,” I first heard this from Fania Davis in my Restorative Justice studies at California Institute of Integral Studies. But, I thought “healing people heal people,” and the best way to help people to heal was to provide a safe space for that to happen. The nature of humans is for that growth. All they need is a garden – that safe place – and they can do it.
When I got the guidance to start the process of applying for a church, I knew I would need to commit to a mission. There are many things I hold as values, and many things I know I am here to accomplish. How was I going to put it into a single focus? As I sat with my life journey, as a social worker, a student, a healer, priestess, ceremonial guide, mentor . . . what was it that had most inspired me?
I also tuned into what sort of community I wanted to create. I tuned into the times and places in my life where I flourished the most. The “Lallapalooza Children’s Art Festival” that happened every Summer, the prayer circles where I or someone in our Mormon community would receive a blessing, sacred plant medicine ceremonies, womxn’s circles, and the many different gatherings of different Indigenous and First Nations People who came together for healing and service. I tuned into all of these experiences to understand what made them so powerful. What was it that made them so valuable and helpful for me? I realized they were all safe and sacred spaces. They all provided a container to learn, heal, and grow in community.
I also have, throughout my life, felt most comfortable when there was a sense of diversity in community. When there are different cultures, ages, ideas, perspectives, strengths, challenges all mixed together, I am the most engaged. Diversity has always drawn me in. I love to learn about new places, people, cultures, ideas . . . And I know that in Nature, without diversity, things just don’t thrive so much.
I didn’t want to create a church that taught a particular way of being or set of beliefs. I wanted to be of service to the liberation from suffering of others so that they could live their Noble Purpose, honor their Soul Contract for this lifetime and be healing people healing people instead of hurt people hurting people.
So, as I sat with what the mission for the Church of Living Wisdom should be, it made sense that it be about creating safe and sacred spaces (physical places and experiences) for our diverse community to learn, heal, and grow together.
How we do that relies upon the rich diversity of all those who show up to do the learning, healing, and growing together. That’s the whole point. We need each other to do this great work of healing. We are much stronger than the sum of our parts, and we are much more capable of reaching our fullest potential when we are working effectively in community. All we need is the safe and sacred space to let it happen.
This is our mission. May it serve all who come in a good way.