The New Sanctuary Movement Comes to My Neighborhood

img_3225“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.”
― Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth

Given the current divisive atmosphere and mean narratives, I feel compelled some evenings to share information and inspiration on topics other than poetry, which support our shared ideals.

In a courageous and compassionate move two faith organizations in my neighborhood just announced that their congregations have voted by overwhelming majorities to give physical sanctuary to vulnerable neighbors, the kind of move that has growing support across the United States under the banner of The New Sanctuary Movement, a movement with historic roots in human sanctuary (as opposed to spiritual sanctuary) in England, 600 A.D. This latest revival is a renewal of the 80s Sanctuary Movement in the U.S.

In the 1980s faith organizations were responsible for transporting and sheltering some 500,000 escaping the violence in Central America. Hundreds of congregations sheltered refugees and moved them to the U.S. and Canada.

Why give sanctuary: 

The Rev. Ben Meyers minister of the Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo states: “Our Unitarian Universalist principles call us to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of all people; to seek justice, equity, and compassion in human relations, and to create world community with peace, liberty and justice for all. We commit our values to action as we work with other people of faith and moral conscience congruent with these principles and this purpose.  Deportation of our neighbors and the breaking up of immigrant families in our communities are among the most compelling social justice issues of our time.  Standing together on the side of love, our faith communities can make a real difference.”

and …

The Rev. Dr. G. Penny Nixon, senior minister of the Congregational Church of San Mateo says: “Each week we gather in our beautiful sanctuary to remember who we are as a people of faith who follow the teachings of Jesus. For us, providing refuge means opening that sanctuary as a “safe place” to those who are an integral part of our community, and providing a haven for families to stay together.” –The Rev. Dr. G. Penny Nixon, senior minister of the Congregational Church of San Mateo


I do not represent either of the churches featured here this evening nor speak for their ministers and congregations, but this story is compelling. I hope that by featuring their justice efforts other faith organizations that haven’t picked up the banner will do so. If your synagogue, church, temple or mosque is not in the process of becoming sanctuary, then please consider initiating that conversation. If you are the leader in a faith organization or a professional journalist who would like more information, contact the ministers at clergyhousingsummit2@gmail.com or contact me via direct message on Facebook or thepoetbyday@gmail.com and I’ll be happy to connect you.

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