Guest Post : Rachel Newham / ThinkTwice

When my best friend’s father died, it was the place I ran to, to cry and mourn.

When I was overwhelmed with suicidal thoughts; it’s the place I was most honest.

When I felt utterly hopeless, it was the place that held out hope for me. 

The church has been my sanctuary for over twenty five years – the place I brought my rawest emotions, my darkest desires and terror.

But I am all too aware that for many, the church has been a place of great hurt, rather than healing.

They’ve had their mental health issues dismissed as a ‘lack of faith’, told their illness is demonic or been palmed off with bible verses as sticking plasters. 

When I began ThinkTwice ten years ago, I did not expect to hear as many of these stories, but as I’ve travelled, preached, trained and spoken to people all over the country it’s clear that for every church which provides care and hope there are more that, often unintentionally, have caused great harm. 

And so when it came to marking ThinkTwice’s tenth anniversary, we wanted to talk about our dream for churches which are sanctuaries to everyone; where people can celebrate, lament, hope and worship together without barriers.

Walter Brueggemann writes,

Churches should be the most honest places in town, not the happiest place in town


Amen to that!

So to help we’ve created a set of resources for churches to reflect on how they can be sanctuaries, particularly for those with mental illness and the wonderful Meg Canon has written and performed a spoken word for use in churches as a call to prayer and action. 

This year has presented challenges to the church and the world that we’ve never seen the like of – but whether online or offline we have hope in our saviour who is our sanctuary. Jesus welcomed those others rejected, offered healing, comfort and challenge to those he met – and we believe that the church can and should be a place everyone can be met with the love of God through the people of God. 

There’s work to do – so let’s get on with it – and enable our churches to be sanctuaries.

[Sanctuary Resources]

Rachael Newham is the Founder of christian mental health charity ThinkTwice ( and the author of memoir and theological reflection on mental illness Learning to Breathe, published by SPCK.