On Sunday September 24, the congregation of Peace United Church of Christ voted overwhelmingly to become an Immigrant Welcoming and Sanctuary Congregation. We join a growing cohort of churches in Minnesota and across the country that are publicly offering shelter and support to immigrants or immigrant families engaged in the process of getting documentation or naturalization and facing immediate deportation.
In addition to offering a sanctuary space for our immigrant neighbors, Peace UCC is committed to fostering compassionate, just treatment of all immigrants within our community and engaging in continual education around current laws, policies and practices that affect immigrants and immigrant rights. We know our efforts are imperfect, but we cannot stay silent as our friends, family, and community members are threatened by an unjust immigration system.
From the Hebrew scriptures to the sanctuary movement protecting Central Americans in the 1980s, the people of God have been strangers and have welcomed strangers. We are seeing a resurgence in sanctuary in our present time, this one starting 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.
Peace UCC is joined in its efforts by several sanctuary supporting churches in Duluth. You can learn about the details of the sanctuary declaration at http://www.peaceucc.org/sanctuary-congregation/.
Click here for more info on Sanctuary Congregation.
Peace UCC Sanctuary Church Vision Statement
“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.