ABOUT HEARTWARD SANCTUARY
Heartward Sanctuary is a North Carolina-based 508(c)(1)(a) religious organization founded in 2019 by Julia Hartsell and Jonathan Hadas Edwards. Our mission is one of healing and reconnection: fostering relationship with the more-than-human world through expressive and ritual arts and support people in reclaiming meaningful rites of passage from birth to death. We seek to anchor sacred and healing work in service of heart-level transformation and to re-seed vital and sustainable cultural forms. At the core of this mission lies the work of healing at personal and communal levels, through practices including music and dance, prayer and offerings, somatics, plant medicine and group ritual praxis. We're a non-dogmatic, generally animist, heart-centered church.
Close to the heart of Heartward Sanctuary is a commitment to honoring the passages of human life, from conception to death, and holding sacred ground for healing and transformation. We seek to restore and steward ancestral ways pertaining to healing and rites of passage, to anchor and share knowledge of these vital traditions.
Heartward Sanctuary will serve people in the NC Piedmont and Haw River Watershed and beyond with land-based rituals, grief ceremonies, end-of-life counsel and affordable and sustainable burial options. Our work cultivates sacred spaces for individuals and groups to enter into soul work by weaving animist cosmology, healing modalities and expressive arts. As ritualists, we seek to support people through initiatory passages - of life cycle and crisis - towards meaning, wholeness and reconnection.
Our values are humane, broadly animist and earth-honoring; our approach to healing and ritual work is pragmatic and draws inspiration and techniques from several traditions, from our blood and lineage ancestors and from our lived experience. Our values are rooted in a relational, feminist, decolonizing, anti-ractist, LGBTQI-friendly, class-aware, earth-honoring ethic.
This collaborative project emerges from the union of Julia and Jonathan, who share a background in religious studies, ritual arts and ancestral healing work. Julia has dedicated decades to embodied practices and group ritual, tending to personal healing and catalyzing multi-generational communities. Her projects, Hoop Convergence (an International Conference) and The Flowjo (a movement studio in Carrboro, NC), have seeded models for other communities and events locally and globally. Julia is a dance facilitator and is also trained as a Home Funeral Guide and Death Doula. Jonathan’s work as a healer in private practice draws from traditional modalities including acupuncture, herbal medicine, and ritual; he has researched Ayurvedic Medicine on a Fulbright grant to Nepal and completed a four-year clinical Masters of Science in Oriental Medicine.
While the word "church" or "sanctuary" often conjures a physical location, our emphasis is on a gathering place and point of communion with the sacred; this means we may meet in nature, in a private home, or at a specific historical site, depending on the type of service.
Our regular Sunday service is held at The Flowjo in Carrboro, NC, as are semi-regular dance rituals and grief ceremonies.
Some of our more in-depth healing work is held at the home of our founders in Saxapahaw, NC, on several secluded acres on the Haw River.
We also occasionally take our sanctuary on the road, sharing our work in private or community spaces according to need. Examples have included weddings, education, and end-of-life transition support.
Why a Religious organization?
The realms of deep psyche, states of consciousness, sacred medicines, ritual, relationship with the mystery, birth and death belong to the spiritual realm, historically the domain of a church or religion. In our society, these liminal spaces are protected by freedom of religion. We reclaim the sovereignty of our bodies and our spiritual passages. We remember and value our relationship with the other-than-human realms. We are dedicated to remembering ancient ways and weaving new ones to bring us back into harmony, to alignment, into right relationship. As a spiritual organization we claim our right to freedom of speech, regulation of our own bodies, sexual & reproductive freedom, death & burial practices and cognitive liberty.