The Church as a Refuge: A Sanctuary of Peace and Community

Rev. Derrick Elliott, Pastor, Sun Lakes United Church of Christ

September is a month of transition, where the sun-kissed days of summer gradually give way to the vibrant colors of autumn, but September in Arizona is like trying to bake cookies in a car—you step outside, and suddenly you’re the one in “preheated” mode! However, September is a season of change and reflection, much like the spirit of the church. As a pastor, I am humbled to share with the community how the church has always served as a refuge, a haven of solace, and a place of spiritual growth.

Furthermore, since I have been pastor of Sun Lakes United Church of Christ, I have witnessed the unwavering support and compassion that has reinforced my belief in the transformative power of faith. Together, we have been the church for God’s creation and celebrated joys, creating an enduring bond that reminds us of the strength found in unity. Our shared journey towards greater understanding, love, and service continues to inspire me, and I am eager to see how our collective efforts will further enrich our lives and those we touch.

Throughout the ages, the church has stood as a haven for tired spirits, providing solace to those seeking sanctuary from the tempests of life—a perpetual testament to God’s love and inclusivity, where all are embraced wholeheartedly. Echoing the scripture, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). This timeless verse calls upon us to find solace and inner fortitude in the enfoldment of divine love, much akin to a fatigued traveler finding reprieve beneath a welcoming tree. Radiating hope, the church’s luminance should kindle global hearts to seek renewal and shelter within the limitless expanse of God’s compassion.

The church’s foundation rests upon biblical teachings, reminding us to show hospitality to strangers and to care for those in need. In the words of Hebrews 13:2, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” In this sacred place, we aim to extend the grace and compassion of Christ to all who enter its doors.

The church has encountered challenges and controversies that momentarily obscured its role as a refuge and symbol of unity. Instances of corruption, internal strife, and external factors have, at times, diminished its positive influence. However, recognizing the church’s diverse impact across regions and eras underscores the necessity to reclaim its authentic essence in our dynamic world today.

Here at Sun Lakes United Church of Christ, we believe that the church is not just a physical building, but a living, breathing community of believers. As the Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The church is where diverse perspectives are embraced, love and understanding transcend barriers, and we walk together as one in our faith journey.

As the pages of September turn, we warmly invite you to join us every Saturday at 4 p.m. in the comforting embrace of the church’s sanctuary, where faith, love, and compassion thrive. In this sacred month of new beginnings, let the church shine as a symbol of hope, providing renewal and solace to those in search of healing and a fresh start. With the unwavering love of Jesus Christ at its core, Sun Lakes United Church of Christ extends an open invitation to embark on a collective journey of faith.