By     Jun 26, 2015
Lead Organizer, The Sanctuaries, Creative Community Fellow

Rev. Erik Martinez Resly

Artists collaborating at The Sanctuaries

Artists collaborating on a project at The Sanctuaries


Almost a thousand years ago, Muslim theologian Al-Ghazali posed a question that both inspires and shadows the work that I do: "How am I to know God if I do not even know myself?"

Whether or not you identify with the language of "God," there is an invitation in Al-Ghazali's inquiry to explore the mystery of the self. I want to believe that he is pointing to the truth that institutions are only as humane as the people behind them. If we seek social change, we may well have to change ourselves. Or, at minimum, get to know ourselves. I am reminded of Jewish theologian Martin Buber's insight that political uprisings “are futile and bound to be self-destructive so long as a new structure of genuinely communal human life is not born out of the soul’s renewal."

For the past couple of years, I have had the privilege of serving as the Lead Organizer of The Sanctuaries, a spiritually inclusive arts community in Washington, DC. We are a group of racially and religiously diverse people who come together to build authentic friendships and collaborate on artistic projects that make a difference in our city. Ours is not a place of political revolution per se. But I am consistently awed by the degree of "soulful renewal," to borrow Buber's turn of phrase, that happens precisely because of, and not in spite of, the diversity of stories that are present.

I am learning that our differences not only hold the potential to unite us, but that they hold the power to propel us to that deeper place within ourselves, where, in discovering our own inner life, we stumble upon the sacredness of life itself.

~ Rev. Erik Martinez Resly