This past Sunday, December 10, First Parish convened a congregational meeting to consider two articles related to sanctuary. The first article proposed that First Parish become a level 2 sanctuary congregation (“sanctuary supporting congregation”). The second article proposed adding First Parish to the list of Unitarian Universalist Sanctuary Movement Pledge Congregations & Organizations. Both articles passed unanimously.
With over 90 members in attendance, we well surpassed the quorum requirement, which was one of several signs of enthusiasm from parishioners for this initiative. The sanctuary task force of the Immigrant Ministry was heartened by this show of support and appreciates all the coordination and hard work that Gail Hedges (Parish President), the Parish Committee, Reverend Catie, and others put into making the vote a success.
We are grateful to have had the opportunity to share in this discernment with the parish body, and for both the words of support and tough questions that we received from parishioners along the way. It was beautiful to see different aspects of the church come together and make this milestone possible.
Now, the next phase begins. The Sanctuary Task Force will investigate which level 1 sanctuary congregations we can partner with. Once a suitable level 1 is identified, we will present that congregation and the parameters of a supporting relationship to the Parish Committee for approval. Once those steps are completed, you will start hearing about volunteer and support opportunities. In the meantime, we welcome anyone who wants to get involved or has questions or ideas to contact a member of the Immigrant Ministry.
Ultimately, the decision on Sunday was an act of faith, faith in the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and faith in the love and strength of this church to continue to put that belief into action.
The Immigrant Ministry is leading an effort for First Parish to vote on becoming a level 2 (supporting) sanctuary. This means we would organize to support a level 1 sanctuary so that they can host an immigrant in danger of deportation.
As a group, we have met for the past several months to study and reflect upon sanctuary. Questions we’ve addressed as a group are:
- Are we spiritually called to sanctuary?
- What is the history and tradition of sanctuary in Unitarian Universalism?
- What would it mean for First Parish to be a sanctuary or sanctuary supporting (level 2) congregation?
We are ready, able and enthusiastic to share the answers to those questions, and many more, with you. In fact, you may have already seen us tabling at social hour or attended a recent meeting about sanctuary, or noticed that our full Sanctuary FAQ is now available on the First Parish website.
Sometimes one-on-one conversations are the best way to get questions answered, or to express concerns and ideas. In that spirit, we welcome and encouraged you to ask questions to any member of the sanctuary task force of the Immigrant Ministry, including:
- Becca Malakoff
- Cathy Livingston
- Clark Taylor
- Jeanette Anderson
- Tabby Rappolt
- Traci Abbott
- Will Rico
We are committed to open dialogue and want everyone to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings with us.
A popular question has been “why are you recommending level 2 (supporting) status and what would that entail?” Since this is such a popular question, I’ve excerpted the answer from the Sanctuary FAQ below.
IX. RECOMMENDATION OF THE IMMIGRATION TASK FORCE
At this time, the Immigrant Ministry recommends that First Parish become a Level 2 Sanctuary Congregation. By becoming a Level 2 Sanctuary site, we are taking a stand on a critical social justice issue. This route provides us with the opportunity to contribute and test our resolve while educating ourselves on what would be required of us if were to choose to become a Level 1 Sanctuary site at a later date.
The above statement would simply acknowledge that First Parish commits to becoming a Level 2 Parish. It would NOT commit us to partnering with a specific congregation that has voted to become a Level 1 Sanctuary. Once First Parish decides if it wants to become a Level 2 Sanctuary Parish, the Immigrant Ministry and the Sanctuary Task Force will monitor Level 1 Sanctuary congregations in our geographic area. The Sanctuary Task Force will meet with members of the Level 1 congregation(s) once the congregation has accepted someone into sanctuary to assess the viability of partnering with one of them as a Level 2 Sanctuary Parish.
Once the Sanctuary Task Force has identified one or more potential partnerships, materials will be prepared and presented to the Parish Committee (as needed). Sanctuary Task Force will choose Level 1 to pair with (with approval/discretion of Parish Committee).
Process for Partnering with a specific Level 1 Sanctuary Congregation:
Before declaring support as a Level 2 Sanctuary Parish with a Level 1 congregation with a family or individual in residence, the Parish will engage in the following discernment and decision process:
- Provide a description of resident(s) living in sanctuary at Level 1 sanctuary congregations within First Parish’s geographic area (This assumes that there may be more than one congregation housing someone in residence. If there is only one Level 1 congregation with someone in residence, that information will be brought to the Parish.)
- Provide a list of the volunteer support activities that the Level 1 congregation has listed as needed.
- Provide information on how many volunteers and/or hours of support are desired by the Level 1 congregation, including as much specificity about time slots available, desired time commitment for each volunteer, minimum hours of support expected of a Level 2 congregation, etc. as we can obtain.
- Provide an estimate of any expenses that are anticipated in voting on a specific Level 2 commitment, including information on how that money will be raised.
We look forward to answering more questions, and growing in our understanding and spirit together.
The Immigrant Ministry is leading an effort to have First Parish vote on becoming a level 2 sanctuary in November. To help people prepare for that decision, the Immigrant Ministry prepared the attached FAQ document on what becoming a Sanctuary congregation would mean for First Parish. (Many people have seen the shorter poster board version at social hour and/or received a paper copy.) If you have questions, please contact Will Rico — and stay tuned for more information!
View as a Google Doc. Download shorter summary version of FAQ (PDF format).
The following remarks about Sanctuary were given by Will Rico at the Annual Congregational Meeting on May 21.
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On behalf of the Immigrant Ministry, thank you Parish Committee, congregation and Reverend Catie for giving me the opportunity to speak to you this evening about sanctuary. Continue reading…
First Parish is participating in a consortium of faith groups in Needham to support refugee resettlement and there is an opportunity for us to help in a big way during the final weeks of summer and leading into the fall. Continue reading…
Would you support an Immigrant Ministry at First Parish?
At the First Parish Annual Meeting on Sunday, Si Si Goneconto and I presented our idea for creating an Immigrant Ministry at the church. Continue reading…