Vision Statement – Sanctuary Congregation Team
“When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don’t take advantage of [them]. Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love [them] like one of your own. Remember that you were once foreigners in Egypt. I am God, your God.” Leviticus 19:33-34, The Message
“Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’” Mark 12:29-31, NRSV
Peace Church has a long history of sanctuary; at certain times we have offered sanctuary, and at other times, we have sought it. From the Hebrew scriptures to the sanctuary movement protecting Central Americans in the 1980’s, the people of God have both been strangers and welcomed strangers.
We are seeing a resurgence of this movement in our present time. This one started in 2014 due to the increase in deportations taking place under the Obama administration. With the election of the current administration and its overt commitment to anti-immigrant policies, this modern sanctuary movement has grown in scope and urgency.
As a Just Peace Church, we are committed to the interrelation of friendship, justice, and common security from violence, with the intent of creating a community of:
- resistance, standing against social structures comfortable with violence and injustice
- sacrifice and commitment, ready to go the extra mile, and then another mile, in the search for justice and peace (see Matthew 5:41)
- of political and social engagement, in regular dialogue with the political order, participating in peace and justice advocacy networks, witnessing to a Just Peace in the community and in the nation, joining the social and political struggle to implement a Just Peace. (General Synod 15 Pronouncement)
One step in this process is to prepare the building and congregation to offer shelter and support to an immigrant or immigrant family engaged in the process of getting documentation or naturalization. The work of a sanctuary congregation, however, is much more than this:
- Encouraging members of Peace to be involved in fostering compassionate, just treatment of immigrants in their own spheres of influence (work, community, neighborhood, etc)
- Equipping members to foster a supportive environment in the Duluth/Superior area by befriending immigrants in their neighborhoods, workplaces, and social gatherings
- Providing educational opportunities about current laws, policies and practices that affect immigrants, as well as information about immigrant rights
- Being alert to ways Peace Church can respond to immigrant needs as they are discovered or made known to us
- Partner with sanctuary supporting congregations and others in each of these areas
Providing sanctuary is another way we as a congregation can praise God, live the way of Jesus, and build the beloved community.
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2017 Annual Report – Sanctuary Congregation Team
“When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don’t take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner the same as the native. Love him like one of your own. Remember that you were once foreigners in Egypt.” Leviticus 19:33-34
During this past program year, leadership and staff at Peace became aware that “foreigners” in the Twin Ports area are feeling increasingly anxious about their status in the United States. The stories were varied: students with green cards stopped, but they had left their green cards in their apartment and for this, were temporarily detained; graduate students wanting to finish their work whether or not their student visas are still valid; families where a spouse or parent is undocumented even though they are working, paying taxes, and hoping to someday obtain legal status. Given our Biblical mandate to care for “foreigners” as if they are our own, and the increasingly strident anti-immigrant policies of our government, it seemed only right that, as a Christian community, we consider how we might respond.
In February, adult forums focused on learning more about immigration. Presenters included a local student here from Syria, Susana Pelayo-Woodward, Director of UMD’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion, and Susie George, a member of the UCC Minnesota Conference’s Immigration Team.
In March, Peace hosted a workshop led by the Rev. Grant Stevenson. He works with an interfaith organization, ISAIAH, in the Twin Cities and has been instrumental in helping congregations develop sanctuary ministries. To this date, Immigration and Customs Enforcement consider church buildings to be “sensitive places.” Their agents are reluctant to make arrests in churches simply for the sake of detainment and deportation. Some congregations are making space in their building available for persons who have begun the legal process towards documentation but who could be deported before completing the process. About 20 members of Peace attended the workshop.
In April, the Coordinating Council authorized a Sanctuary Exploration Team to consider the possibility of Peace declaring itself a Sanctuary Church. Peace church members have been investigating and imagining what this could mean, both for the congregation and the community. A presentation will be made at the Annual meeting on June 4 and opportunities for learning more, asking questions and discussing the issue further will be available during the early part of the summer. Kevin Swira Brown, Charlotte Frantz and Pastor Kathy Nelson have served as a coordinating committee.