FMC participated as a member of the 11 member Cambridge Interfaith Sanctuary Coalition (CISC) for two years, from March 2017 to March 2019. About 25 of our community have been active participants in the work of the Coalition.
As background, CISC was formed in early 2017 by 7 congregations in Cambridge. One, University Lutheran Church (UniLu), agreed to be a Level 1 Sanctuary, to house from 1 to 6 sanctuary seekers in space they had converted in their building. The other 6 congregations agreed to being Level 2 supporting congregations. Since then 4 more congregations have joined.
The Sanctuary housing was one of 3 planned areas of effort; the other two were advocacy/ accompaniment and community education. In a very short time, May 2017, a mother and her children requested sanctuary at UniLu. Since then, the main focus of CISC has been the care and support of the Sanctuary guests, by taking shifts at UniLu, purchasing groceries, and nurturing the children. The other prongs, advocacy, accompaniment and community education, have not been as much of a focus.
At our March 2019 Meeting for Business in Worship, FMC made the decision to resign formal membership. Many of us are feeling ready to spend time on accompaniment, advocacy, and community education about immigration policies. And our volunteers can continue the immigration work as we are led, doing shifts and grocery shopping for CISC through other member congregations, and advocacy and accompaniment through organizations such as Boston Immigration Justice Accompaniment Network (BIJAN) and Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA).
September 24, 2017
Why are Friends involved in Sanctuary? It is now five months that Quakers have been part of the Cambridge Sanctuary Interfaith Coalition (CSIC). It is now four months that a mother and her children have been housed in a nearby church because she was threatened with deportation. Myself, along with hundreds of other concerned citizens have accompanied this mother in her chosen place of refuge.
So, for weeks I have reflected on, “Why join in sanctuary?” In a way, our sanctuary covenant reminds me of the prophet Micah. “What does the Lord require of you? —to love kindness, to do justice, and to walk humbly with our God.” (Micah 6:8)
Where is kindness among immigrant families? I go into the top floor of the Lutheran church where we have carved out a sanctuary space and I open my heart. I enter quietly and smile when I pass the mother. The 3-year-old girl jumps into my arms. It’s hard for me to stay for four hours, cooped up like a horse in the stall. But I need to change my attitude: I come here to learn, I come to share suffering, and to show friendliness in a harsh country that divides parents from children. We find out that the mom loves the fresh kale a friend brought from their garden.
How is sitting with the family also acting holy justice? The immigration laws that send undocumented people to other countries are inhumane. In sanctuary, we follow God’s justice, not humankind’s imperfect laws. It’s not a cliché to say, “I’m not free, until this mother is free,” “I’m not safe until all of us are safe.” I could simply denounce the immigration law that deports hard-working, law-abiding people. Instead, I choose to stand in the way bodily. I chose to join a movement modeling a restorative, reconciling justice. I will not just wait in patience, I will speak out and demand fair treatment for all. We will build a holy mountain, not a dividing wall. This justice helps families stay together, work productively, and go to school.
How do we walk humbly in sanctuary? We are walking down a new path. We don’t have all the answers. We need to keep our words tender and our hearts open. What has been your experience in responding to what God requires of you? Please share any stories of sanctuary or of doing God’s work in the world.
—In Holy Obedience, Minga Claggett-Borne
Update on participating churches
The Cambridge Interfaith Sanctuary Coalition currently consists of the following Sanctuary Congregation, which will provide physical sanctuary:
University Lutheran Church
Supporting Congregations to University Lutheran Church:
Harvard Divinity School Student Led Interfaith and Secular Coalition
Harvard Epworth United Methodist Church
First Church in Cambridge (UCC)
Old Cambridge Baptist Church
Friends Meeting at Cambridge (Quaker)
First Parish in Cambridge (UU)
St. James Episcopal
Christ Church Episcopal
Faith Lutheran Church
July 1, 2017
Why should Friends join in with Sanctuary?
I have been breaking down the doors of our country’s power structure this month. I have been shaking at the foundations of white privilege each Monday. I have joined the Cambridge Interfaith coalition to illegally offer Sanctuary to Ana, a mother from Latin America.
When I volunteer with 10 other Cambridge Friends every Monday. Accompanying Ana is not strenuous. We are trained in how to act if the ‘authorities’ come to arrest Ana. There is very little worry that ICE will come knocking at the doors of the Lutheran church which houses her family. I sit in the ‘volunteer’ room and read or write or play with Ana’s 2 children.
But make no mistake. Participating in Sanctuary is justice work. It is reversing the government’s inhumane splitting of families and its unjust hegemony on the US protecting its shores for white people. When I sign up to accompany this young vibrant family, I’m lending my privilege to help those without legal rights. I’m saying to the government, you cannot take an innocent person and throw her out of our country into a dangerous situation without me standing in the way.
I can’t do Sanctuary alone. Neither can you. We pray together for God’s guidance. But as a Quaker team of 15 or 30 people we can offer protection to the innocent for a long time. Will you join us?
There is a great deal happening in the Sanctuary community, as we work within CISC and with other organizations in the struggle to defend undocumented immigrants from deportation and injustice.
In May there were five trainings for volunteers, and more will be coming in the summer and fall for those interested in working with the Coalition. On June 4, 2017, at First Church Cambridge, 11 Garden Street, Dr. Michael Grodin gave a lecture on Trauma and the Migration Process. Dr. Grodin is a professor of Health Law, Ethics and Human Rights at Boston University and cofounder of the Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights. Opportunities will be forthcoming to work with Diego Low at Metrowest Worker Center/Casa del Trabajador/Casa Do Trabalhador in Framingham; details will follow when available. We are eager to share what we are learning in our Sanctuary work!
Please complete the Volunteer Interest Form, which is also available in the Center, in order to be kept informed of upcoming events. If you have questions, ask Susan Davies (617-876-0862), John Bach, Lynn Lazar, or Kim West.
FMC has joined the Sanctuary Coalition in Cambridge as a supporting congregation to University Lutheran in Harvard Square, which will house undocumented immigrants in danger of deportation. Much of the Coalition’s time and energy to date has been put into preparing for the physical sanctuary portion. This work continues, with some of the practical details still being worked out, and the timing of receiving guests into the space is yet to be determined. Subcommittees are working on the logistics of volunteer engagement and coordination within congregations and the Coalition; creation of a database of medical, legal, social worker and other services that could be available as needed; and trainings to be provided to volunteers.
Advocacy is also very much a part of the Coalition’s purpose. The two upcoming efforts/events we would like to share are:
The May Day strike “Day without Immigrants” being organized by Cosecha. People of faith and places of worship will lift up the struggles of undocumented immigrants, spark conversations about our role in this moment as people of faith, support immigrant organizers, and push back on the increased enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) activity under the new administration. The following link provides info and a sign-up form to get involved: CosechaFe.
We would like those in the FMC community who would like to find out more about what volunteering would entail to reach out to Susan Davies, John Bach, Kim West and Lynn Lazar. Some of you have already done so, thank you. During the coffee hour at the rise of meeting on May 7, one of us will be at a table in the Friends Room, ready and eager to share information about this movement and to answer questions about getting involved.
March 13, 2017
As a result of the recently escalated anti-immigrant rhetoric and activity in the United States, the sanctuary movement has gained new life and is growing among faith congregations all over the country. Many have memories of the Sanctuary Movement in the 1980’s, during which immigrants fleeing Central America were helped into the country. This movement differs in that it is helping those who are already here in the country but do not have documentation and are therefore under threat of deportation.
Some faith congregations are offering physical housing to undocumented individuals, while others are supporting those congregations in a variety of ways. Numerous organizations are providing training and other tools to assist this effort.
The Harvard Square Churches Sanctuary Coalition has been formed in Cambridge as part of this movement. Four key factors that are important in Supporting Congregations:
Volunteers – If guests are housed in the physical church it could require 1 to 2 people with them in the church 24 hours a day, so volunteers would need to take shifts. If there are enough congregations in the coalition, it might mean providing volunteers for around 24 hours a day one day a week.
Providing food for those given physical sanctuary – This could be a combination of supplying groceries for the guests to be able to cook for themselves and providing prepared meals.
Funding that could be used to help with a variety of things including legal defense.
Advocacy for those who are being threatened with deportation.
Understanding that not all congregations can provide all of these, each needs to commit to what is realistic for their community.
On March 1, Linda Rabben, anthropologist at University of Maryland, human rights advocate, and attender of Adelphia, MD, Friends Meeting gave a talk about the history of sanctuary movements in the United States and led a lively discussion about the 1980’s sanctuary movement and the current situation. This event was sponsored by FMC’s Friends for Racial Justice committee.
Dr. Rabben’s interest in sanctuary movements began when she was a consultant to the ACLU and asked how she, personally, could help. The ACLU put her in touch with a young woman who had been detained prior to deportation. In working to prevent that woman’s deportation, Dr. Rabben became convinced of the need to understand sanctuary movements more generally and the way our immigration-related legal system works in particular.
Her new book, Sanctuary & Asylum: A Social and Political History, explores the long history of sanctuary and analyzes modern asylum policies, contrasting them with the role that courageous individuals and organizations have played in offering refuge to survivors of torture, persecution, and discrimination.