Supporting Our Guest in Sanctuary

Supporting Our Guest in Sanctuary

Crowdfunding Completed: March 10, 2018

Amount Funded: $14936

Project Owner: First Parish Bedford, MA

Short Description of Project

On January 6, 2018, First Parish in Bedford welcomed into sanctuary a Central American woman in danger of imminent deportation. Help us support her!

How was this project connected to UU?

The congregation at First Parish Bedford has responded to the call of the presidents of the UUA and the UUSC to follow our conscience and to do all we can to protect the vulnerable among us and support the fight against “any unjust government actions to deport, register, discriminate or despoil.” We, at First Parish Bedford, are in the unique position to not only support these efforts to acquire justice for all via civil disobedience, legislative actions etc., but also by opening our church to welcome a person(s) in imminent danger of deportation.

UUs have a long tradition of advocating for human rights. Our work is grounded on the principles that demand we respect the inherent worth and dignity of every person as well as the pursuit of justice, equity and compassion in human relations. We see this work as an expression of our faith as well as an active way to live our UU values and principles.

In the spirit of the call to conscience given by the UUA and UUSC, it is clear that we must act together. Now that we have a guest in sanctuary, we are relying on over 200 volunteers from our church and from 7 other nearby congregations: First Parish UU in Concord, First Church UU in Belmont, Follen UU in Lexington, the Unitarian Society in Winchester, Temple Isaiah in Lexington. Temple Shalom Emeth in Burlington, St. Paul's Episcopal in Bedford, and many individuals from other congregations who have teamed up with one of the congregations in covenant with us to do this work.

Our Coalition Covenant:

As people of faith and conscience, we are called to welcome the stranger, protect the vulnerable, and accompany the oppressed. As diverse communities of faith, we are called to respond to the injustice we are witnessing in the immigration and deportation policies of our nation. Grounded in moral conviction and our faith traditions, we pledge to become a sanctuary coalition to advocate for just immigration policies and an end to unjust deportations, and to support members of our community under threat of deportation.

Covenants of the Coalition Partners

First Parish in Bedford

First Parish in Bedford commits to offer physical sanctuary to undocumented immigrants as long as necessary and feasible. By accepting a person into sanctuary in its church building, First Parish in Bedford holds ultimate responsibility for decision-making regarding the support of those in sanctuary, and oversees the management of sanctuary at First Parish.

The Sanctuary Committee of First Parish in Bedford

The Sanctuary Committee is charged by the First Parish congregation to coordinate and manage all First Parish activity involving the support of those seeking or entering sanctuary. This broad charge has included responsibilities for fundraising, education, relationships with immigrant advocacy groups, legal counsel, assessing the applications of sanctuary seekers, creating an interfaith support network, preparing a viable physical space for sanctuary seekers, working with the Parish Board and communicating with the congregation.

The Sanctuary Committee covenants with Supporting Congregations to:

Organize the Coalition network to include a Coalition Coordinator from First Parish in
Bedford, a Volunteer Coordinator from First Parish and each supporting congregation, and a means of communication among all coordinators through structures to be mutually determined
Provide necessary preparation for on-site volunteers
Maintain its support of, and advocacy for, immigrants in our communities.
Supporting Congregations covenant with the Sanctuary Committee to:

Provide on-site volunteers at First Parish, Bedford, to support sanctuary there
Ensure that volunteers are sufficiently prepared for their role through appropriate sessions sponsored by First Parish in Bedford, the supporting congregation, or others.
Provide a Volunteer Coordinator to recruit, support and coordinate their volunteers, and to communicate with the Coalition Coordinator
Maintain its support of, and advocacy for, immigrants in our communities.

Full Description of Project

UPDATE: First, a huge THANK YOU to those who helped us reach our original goal in just 12 days! However, as outlined in our original description of the need – to make our sanctuary space safe in the event of fire and to defray the cost of our guests legal representation – at least $15,500 was needed. Now, 6 weeks into our guest’s stay, we are faced with the significant increases in our energy bills due to the 24/7 volunteer coverage provided. Due to the long delays immigrants are experiencing in getting court dates, our guest may be with us for many more months. Therefore, meeting a stretch goal of an additional $7500 in the next 18 days will go a long way toward providing our congregation with financial stability as a sanctuary church and our guest with real hope for a positive court ruling.

In April 2017 First Parish in Bedford asked you to help us create a space in our church where we could offer physical sanctuary to our neighbors in danger of imminent deportation. You responded rapidly and generously. The $9240 raised was used to install a shower, build a privacy wall, purchase a washer/dryer, and acquire major furnishings such as mattresses, window blinds, an induction cooktop, and a kitchen table. Many other necessities were donated by parishioners.

The small, sunlit sanctuary space on the second floor of our beautiful 1817 meeting house has had two occupants. Our first guest received a stay of deportation after only one day in sanctuary. Our second guest, a Central American woman with children and grandchildren, arrived a month ago on January 6. She is still with us and will remain as long as she chooses to be in sanctuary.

As a congregation we received a great gift when our guest chose to stay with us. We are living our faith, resisting the unjust and family-fracturing immigration policies of our government, and broadening our social justice community to include many other nearby communities of faith. Our guest, however, is dealing with a loss of income, separation from her extended family and her community, and the prospect of being returned to a situation of violence and peril. She is a courageous beyond words.

Recently, in order to receive an occupancy permit as a Temporary Shelter, additional fire and safety code work was required to meet state requirements. First Parish is now installing a sophisticated smoke/CO alarm system in the spaces where our guest and overnight volunteers sleep, and along the emergency egress routes from these second floor temporary residences. To hard-wire these alarms and tie them into our current alarm system, we had to spend $9400 that was not in our budget.

Our current guest lost nearly all her savings when an unscrupulous attorney charged her family exorbitant fees for few services and NO positive results. Her current attorney is highly competent, experienced in matters of immigration, and is so committed to our guest’s case that she would continue her work even without further payment. That, however, is unjust, and we want to ensure that this lawyer can earn a living and support her family as she works skillfully to get our guest’s case reopened and adjudicated positively. This attorney’s modest fees on behalf of our guest currently amount to $6000.

We are asking you to help us raise $10,000 in the next 30 days. Our hope is that we may be able to stretch this goal, or, if need be, do additional fundraising activities to gather the funds we so urgently need. Our Sanctuary Coalition includes 8 congregations of differing faiths. Over 200 members of the coalition are now volunteering to provide a 24/7 presence of at least two volunteers at each of 5 daily shifts. They know what to do if ICE agents come to the church, how to handle emergencies, how to recognize signs of trauma, and how to interact with our guest in a culturally competent manner. Wonderful, committed people!

Join us in our support…. please.