Becoming an Immigrant Welcoming Church

Photo: © iStock.com / Professor25 (image #592643618)The United Church of Christ has a long history of following in the way of Jesus by working for justice and in solidarity with the suffering. During the 1980s many of our congregations were involved in the “Sanctuary Movement,” providing shelter, material support and often legal advice to Central American Refugees fleeing civil wars in their home countries. In addition to offering direct aid to individuals and families, the Sanctuary Movement was influential in the passage of a 1990 congressional bill authorizing temporary protected status for Central American refugees, and the 1997 Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act which allowed Central American refugees to apply for permanent residence.

The commitment to Sanctuary is still strong in many congregations. In 2016 the Central Pacific Conference covenanted together to become an Immigrant Welcoming Conference and in July 2017 delegates to the National Synod voted overwhelmingly to declare the whole United Church of Christ an Immigrant Welcoming Denomination. 

In a new and different political landscape, the needs of refugee and immigrant people are changing—they need less physical sanctuary and more welcome, accompaniment, and bold advocacy for compassionate immigration laws. Immigrants seeking financial security and refugees fleeing violence still arrive at our southern border; some entering without documentation and others presenting themselves at appointed places to request asylum. What is new is the enhanced enforcement. What is new and morally abhorrent is the Department of Homeland Security’s policy of separating children from their parents to deter others from coming to our borders.

In light of all that has come before, and the extreme enforcement measures being taken at the border and by ICE agents across the country, I hope that we as a congregation will do all we can to stand together with our immigrant brothers and sisters and their families. Macy Guppy, Mary Crocker and I have been involved with IMIrJ’s education efforts over the last year. We will be offering opportunities to engage in a congregation wide conversation this summer so that together we can decide how we want to respond to the current crisis. Join us as we educate ourselves about immigrant issues and learn how we might advocate for human rights, and how to accompany our immigrant neighbors in times of need. 

To help us enter into conversation I have invited Rev. Linda Jaramillo to join us for worship on June 10. Rev. Jaramillo who served as executive minister of UCC Justice and Witness Ministries for nearly a decade will bring us a word of persistence and hope!

When an immigrant resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the immigrant.
The immigrant who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you;
you shall love the immigrant as yourself, for you were an immigrant in the land of Egypt.

Leviticus 19:33-34

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