Letter to the Editor, November 3, 2017: Walking our Talk ~ Sanctuary at First Parish, Unitarian Universalist

By Rev. John Gibbons, Senior Minister, First Parish Unitarian Universalist in Bedford, and members of the First Parish Sanctuary Team: Marilou Barsam, Cathy Cordes, Sylvia Cowan, Judi Curcio, Marya Dantzer, Christine Dudley-Marling, Diana Finer, Judith Frediani, Lee Beth King, Vito LaMura, Lisa Rubin, and Julie Zacharakis.

In my sermon last Sunday, I noted that as a congregation we have affirmed that we will give shelter to those who unjustly are threatened with imminent deportation, people whose freedom is in jeopardy, and whose very lives are at stake. Our love will resist the defensive stranger-fearing nativist impulse. We’ve prepared a place, organized ourselves, made coalition and allies. We welcome the stranger. We protect the vulnerable. We accompany the oppressed.

In response to the unanimous recommendation of our Sanctuary Committee, our Parish Board unanimously approved a motion to welcome someone into sanctuary on October 26. This could happen imminently. Let the beauty we love be what we do.

Indeed, on November 1, we welcomed an undocumented person into sanctuary. Threatened with imminent deportation, he was in fear. This particular man had been in the US for many years; he had a business; he had a family; and he had roots in his community. In accordance with our criteria, he had legal representation and a plausible case for relief.

He was welcomed by members of our Sanctuary Team and, along with two volunteers, he spent the night at the church.

The next morning, his lawyer appeared before the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and, to the great relief of everyone, the Judge issued a temporary stay of his removal. “To give the court the opportunity to review the matter, we grant his emergency motion to stay the removal without reaching any jurisdictional or merits issues. Removal is temporarily stayed pending further order of this court.”

Our guest felt safe to leave the church, and by late morning he returned to his own home.

While pleased with this outcome, our Sanctuary Team feels this experience was an ideal opportunity to test our readiness, our processes and procedures, including our coordination of volunteers from within our congregation and our supporting congregations.

We will continue to strengthen our ties to immigrant organizations and those who resist the impulse of fear. We remain ready to provide sanctuary.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.


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Nancy Adams-Wolk
Nancy Adams-Wolk
5 years ago

Thank you for being there for our Bedford residents!

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