First Church is one among more than 1,000 U.S. faith communities that have designated themselves as “sanctuary congregations,” committing to protect and stand with immigrants facing deportation and with other vulnerable groups.
With leadership from members and friends comprising the Sanctuary Working Group, First Church engaged in its own advocacy and education efforts and also partners with Sanctuary DMV and Downtown D.C. Sanctuary DMV Congregations network. Sanctuary DMV is comprised of faith communities in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. that have committed to resist policy proposals that target and seek to deport undocumented immigrants and discriminate against other marginalized communities, including people of color, religious minorities (particularly Muslims), and LGBTQ individuals.
Sanctuary efforts take a variety of forms, including individuals who arrived in the U.S. as children with their parents and are now at risk of deportation because of the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), people threatened by the potential end of the Temporary Protected Status program (TPS) and others. Sanctuary also may involve rapid response to serve as witnesses when there is notice that immigration officials seek to take an individual into custody, accompanying undocumented individuals to legal and immigration proceedings, and training to be an active bystander when witnessing actions against immigrants or other undocumented individuals on the streets and elsewhere.
The decision to become a sanctuary congregation is consistent with First Church’s priorities, history, and beliefs. It also is in accord with the mandates of major religions. For example, the Hebrew Bible references the command to welcome the stranger more than 30 times, and Jesus urges his followers to do the same. The Quran teaches believers to protect the vulnerable.
First Church members unanimously approved the designation in Spring 2016. The vote followed a recommendation from the Church Council, which created a task force of members and friends earlier in the year to discern whether First Church should make the designation and specifically what identifying as such would mean for the congregation. Read the full motion here.
See the history of the sanctuary movement here.