Luther Place Memorial Church

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  • By | February 9, 2017 | Posted in: Community Care, Hospitality, Justice, Luther Place Vision, Spiritual Growth,

    By: Bianca Vazquez, Director of the Steinbruck Center Hostel at Luther Place

    Sanctuary can mean many different things — all rooted in creating safe and livable communities. While undocumented immigrants are the primary targets, we know that African-Americans, Muslims, and others may need sanctuary as well. These congregations, which cross many different faith traditions, are taking a prophetic stand and affirming their dedication to protecting communities of color, immigrants, refugees, and deportation protection policies, such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
    Being a sanctuary congregation can mean many different actions: 
    • Hosting know your rights training
    • Organizing around our city being a sanctuary city. 
      • As a congregation we are engaging with the Washington Interfaith Network and doing listening sessions with immigrant communities, churches, and mosques around the city. We will work together to build power and create a city that is more just. With regards to immigration, this is a very important strategy pre-detainment and deportation.
    • Rapid response team to show up at ICE raids or accompanying people to ICE check-ins.
    • Hosting someone in your building or supporting a congregation that is
      • Sanctuary in this way is a service of public witness and claiming the moral narrative around immigration. The individual already has a deportation order and is trying to get a stay.

    Bianca wrote this poem after a meeting in which congregations across the DMV were discussing how to best offer sanctuary.

    There’s something special about church basements
    filled with dreamers and activists and church ladies
    The believers who know in their bones –
    that the words of the brilliant Audre Lorde – are true:
    Despair is a tool of your enemy
    And facing the realities of our lives
    Gives us motivation for action

    And because I believe that to be gospel,
    I also believe we all need sanctuary.

    The president is going to do or say something
    that will knock the wind out of us
    frustrate and enrage us
    emotionally activate us

    We cannot allow ourselves to be stuck in that place
    of continuous and perpetual and unrelenting
    outrage and anguish
    Because in order to save us
    our minds will make that the new normal
    We will adapt and no longer be able
    to muster outrage
    Only apathy and disheartenment

    What is profound – is to see love as resistance —
    and to understand we all need sanctuary —
    Safe spaces that support our growth, our freedom,
    to support proactively the things we’re called to do

    Sanctuary is nothing new:
    The list could go on and on
    Of the times we have used our buildings
    to save our souls
    The underground railroad during slavery
    Sanctuary for women during women’s suffrage movement
    During the Vietnam war – sanctuary for conscientious objectors
    In the 80s — sanctuary Central American Refugees
    And today – sanctuary to protest the detention and deportation
    of millions of immigrants

    Sanctuary is a word derived from the Latin sanctuarium,
    which like most words ending in –arium
    is a container for keeping something in—
    in this case holy things or perhaps holy people.

    Sanctuary is for all of us who are under attack
    Not just Muslims and not just immigrants
    but Black Lives Matter and our undocuqueers
    and all the rest of us who will be if we stand together

    We must offer sanctuary to everybody
    A place to heal our
    broken hearts and broken bodies
    as the system is set up to dehumanize us
    to reduce someone to a terrorist or a criminal alien
    or just a uterus or an outside agitator

    And it strikes me – it has always been about
    creating a space to recognize the
    holiness of ones that the system discards
    To take a stand against the practice of
    taking away names and stories and humanities

    Sanctuary is one of our most holy histories
    and we must never forget to keep alive —
    to be reminded who we are in the retelling
    and find our purpose in that memory.


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