Immigrant Welcoming Initiative
Afghan Resettlement: Our congregation along with a community circle of support welcomed and supported four Afghan refugees. This was featured in an article in the New Yorker magazine. Read it here.
In September 2017, the congregation of Peace UCC voted overwhelmingly to become a Sanctuary Congregation. This designates our church building as a place where undocumented immigrants in immediate danger of deportation can take refuge while their immigration status is resolved.
For an excellent background on Immigration issues, listen to Rev. Charlotte Frantz, from Peace Church, speaking as part of the lecture series for the The Alworth Center for the Study of Peace and Justice at the College of St. Scholastica. The title of her talk is “For Whom is the American Dream? Immigration, Racism, and Welcome.” MPR podcast or YouTube video (includes power point slides).
“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 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.