Not even a month ago Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ, the lived example of God’s love for humankind. Jesus loved by sharing food with the outcast, lifting up the poor, and touching those society named unclean. One of the reasons Jesus was able love so boldly was because he intimately understood vulnerability. Jesus came to us, not in a wealthy home or a sterile hospital, but in a barn where he and his parents sought shelter. Jesus’s birth narrative and life compel the Church, the body of Christ, to follow in this example by being in solidarity with those who are vulnerable.

On Saturday, January 14, 120 people gathered in the Cathedral Church of St. Paul to discuss the future of the Sanctuary church network and strengthen solidarity among churchgoers. This training, organized by the Massachusetts Communities Action Network (MCAN), was an energizing and informative opportunity for churches to learn to move towards justice.

The Sanctuary Network consists of congregations willing to commit space or resources to help families or individuals who are at risk of deportation. Depending on what they can provide, churches can declare themselves as either Level 1 Congregations, which provide the physical space necessary to house people, or Level 2 Congregations, which provide much-needed support to Level 1 churches.

Over 100 people gather to build a loving and powerful Sanctuary movement

Over 100 people gather to build a loving and powerful Sanctuary movement

This training offered extensive information on the logistics of providing sanctuary, and the many needs that congregations would have to address to support people seeking refuge. The Sanctuary Network would need to provide not only shelter, but food, entertainment, medical care, occupation, exercise, legal aid, and many other resources to people facing deportation. In discussing these many needs, it was clear how important it is for congregations to work together and center their efforts on the people they’re trying to help.

The workshop trainers explained that — rather than being hidden — offering sanctuary is supposed to be a public battle. For the movement to be effective, churches should draw attention to their actions in order to make a moral statement about the rights and dignity of the people they protect.

The training also connected participants to the Cosecha movement, which is a grassroots organization working for the dignity and protection of undocumented people in America.

Jesse Ortiz, LDI’s Programs Fellow, attended the training on behalf of LDI. In order to ground and connect those attending, the training reminded participants of the spiritual imperative to help others, and offered opportunities for all to sing and pray together.  “During and after the training, I felt energized and connected to those around me,” said Jesse. “I left clear idea of the path we’ll share towards helping people who are at risk of deportation. Across our social and theological divides, I felt a church waking up to God’s call for reconciliation.

If you want to get involved, next Thursday, January 26, MCAN will host a Bystander Intervention Training as an extension of the Sanctuary Network. According to MCAN, “The event will include a panel of people sharing their experiences of discrimination and offering practical suggestions for how people can most effectively and appropriately respond in those situations.” Visit this page for more info and to register for the training.

For more information about the Sanctuary Network, contact MCAN’s Deputy Director, Janine Carreiro-Young, at 774-242-0664 or jcarreiro@mcan-pico.org.

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