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 other-than-human world through expressive and ritual arts and supporting 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 are midwives of metamorphosis. 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 serves 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 and broadly animist; 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, as well as on our home acreage in Silk Hope, NC.
Our regular Sunday Dance Sanctuary is held at The Flowjo in Carrboro, NC as are semi-regular dance rituals and grief ceremonies [all currently meeting via Zoom due to coronavirus concerns] .
Some of our more in-depth healing work has been held at the home of our founders in Saxapahaw, NC, on several secluded acres on the Haw River and, as of May 2020, at our organization's long-term home base on 36 acres in Silk Hope, NC. The Green Burial Ground & Ancestral Grove will be consecrated at this new location, along with spaces for healing and end-of-life transition.
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, ancestral dance rituals, land-based ritual 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 have long belonged to the realm of spirit, shamans, priests and healers of various traditions, historically the domain of a church or religion or tradition. In our society, these liminal spaces are protected by freedom of religion. We reclaim the sovereignty of our bodies and our spiritual passages. We seek to reunite spiritual and physical healing, medicine and ritual. We wish for our deaths to become sacred rather than controlled by medicine or limited by economic transaction. 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, into alignment, into right relationship. As a spiritual organization we claim our right to freedom of speech, regulation of our own bodies, sexual and reproductive freedom, death and burial practices and cognitive liberty.
We recognize and respect that so many in our culture are traumatized by the dogma of churches of origin, misuse of power in religion and the colonizing history of Christianity. Many religious systems, when invested with the power of the state, have been tragically corrupted. In losing connection with the traditions of our indigenous ancestors and faiths of our more recent ancestors, some have also lost connections with the unseen, healing and ritual technologies.
We recognize many wisdom traditions and world faiths as paths to the divine. Our religious organization is based upon shared practices rather than dogma or one sacred text. While we value integrity, consent and respect, we do not have one code of morality. We are ritualists and community leaders, but we are also human. We do not seek to be gurus, claim perfection or cultivate dependence for spiritual connection. It is our belief that everyone can establish direct relationship with spirit, ancestors and the divine. We see our roles as supports and midwives for that reconnection. Leadership is a community service, an honor earned over time through the investment of trust. We are doing our best to be heart-centered, aware, kind and conscious of problematic power dynamics. We commit to continual learning, healing, growth and evolution.
We are funded by community donations. As opposed to the prevailing transactional model, we seek to seed a sacred economy based upon health and reciprocity rather than illness and profit. We offer by-donation healing and ritual services to our ongoing monthly Sustainers. We offer sliding scale services to the extended community. Our intention is to catalyze enough sustained support to fund a donation-based green burial ground so that the final passage can be sacred, focused on ritual tending, grieving and celebration rather than financial negotiations or economic strain.