Safe space? No. Sacred space? I wish.

To the white dudes who needily “asked” for (read: insisted on) safe space today?


Note: There is no safe space. Just ask any woman of color. Or queer person. Or poor person. You can imagine who else I might mention, I hope. (Disclaimer: This is a merlot-infused post. Perhaps not as polite as I usually am. Certainly not comprehensive or complete. Just passionate and willing to be provisional and conjectural.)

As a former pastor, sometime adjunct instructor, white person instructed by the esteemed and brilliant emilie townes, let me share with you what I have been told and learned to be true: There is no safe space. There can be, however, sacred space. And that’s true whether we are talking about the classroom, the church, or I would reckon the synagogue or the mosque. Perhaps any gathering of people where things of the heart or soul or spirit have any valence.

Sacred space is first created by the intent to have it: to name that desire, that expectation, and engage in dialogue as to its desirability and what it might take to create it. Ground rules help to establish sacred space: at a minimum, that all persons are treated with the respect due a human being. This might include such logistical considerations as facilitation approaches that enable all to speak, with shared and unhogged air-time, and that support persons for whom speaking is not the same as thinking. No name-calling. No tokenizing. No speaking for your entire (insert social location category here).

At the other end of the spectrum, sacred space might include beginning with prayer, considering the work as worship, attuning to the presence of the Spirit in all things, the use of ritual to mark and sacralize the work or play. I’d say more, but it is for the people gathered to define for themselves what it will mean to create sacred space. Together.

The main difference between sacred space and safe space is the recognition that what we are about — as always and in all times and places — is the work of love, which entails risk: the risk of woundedness, misunderstanding, rupture, loss. Of course, it also entails the possibility of gain: understanding, connection, companionship, richer and more abundant life, justice, accountability, mutuality, perhaps even solidarity.

That, I’m sorry to say, is not where we were today, for the most part.

To ask for safe space is to ask for a continuation in the learning and working space of what you perhaps experience in an overly protected world: the privilege of not being hurt, or accosted by painful realities, or challenged in your worldview.

Get over yourself. That in itself is a big part of the work. And a good place to start.

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12 Responses to Safe space? No. Sacred space? I wish.

  1. Michelle E. Armster says:

    This is excellent and YOU R WONDERFUL!

  2. Michelle E. Armster says:


    We have a blog at MCC Office on Justice and Peacebuilding. Can we post this?

  3. calenthia says:

    thank you ❤

  4. Michal Anne says:

    they really said that? asked for a safe space?? guys used that language?
    I do like your merlot-infused rant–it is right on. especially the last line “get over yourself…”

  5. Carl says:

    Gotta say, that’s a pretty shocking revelation (about the white guys, that is). It’s wrong on so many levels I don’t even know where to begin. Ug. White guys like that give white guys like me a bad rep. 😉

  6. One Reader says:

    I remember LOTS of “space”……miles and miles of it. A big long barb-wire fence and a young man draped over it, left to die, in all that space. Alone in the Wyoming night.

  7. Debra says:

    Much to think about here — thanks for the reminder about sacred space and the reflections on woundedness in the journey.

  8. Beth Baron says:

    This is absolutely beautiful. I saw that you responded to someone else that the blog is “out there,” so OK to post. I would like to use a part of it as a quote at the end of my emails (the work of love… entails risk, plus the rest of that paragraph). Would you be willing to send me your name so I can ascribe it to you? Otherwise, I’ll just put in a link to the posting. I’m at Thanks. – Beth

    • tam121 says:

      Hi, Beth. My name is Tammerie Day. It used to appear on the “front page” of the blog … I guess when WordPress slammed me over to a different format it got lost. Thanks for asking … what an amazing request. You just made my day, on a day when it matters more than usual.

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