Sanctuary: a response required through scripture and tradition
Deacon Nancy Key
(From the Friday Reflection 19 May 2017)
The Episcopal Church defines Sanctuary as a “Holy place, usually the worship space of a church. …. Historically, a sanctuary would be a place of safe refuge for criminals or fugitives. This is also known as the right of sanctuary. It is based on the understanding that holy places such as churches are not subject to the powers of this world.”
Our Friday Reflections in 2017 focus on the theme of stewardship, the stewardship of ALL of God’s creation. And, as followers of Jesus, we are also watchers of Jesus who teaches us that our individual stewardship includes – especially - the poor, the sick, the lonely, and the imprisoned. For me today, the one of the faces of these we are called to steward is those living in fear of deportation. In the coming weeks we will look at a number of ways that we as faith communities might respond to our call to stewardship through some form of sanctuary.
If we have any doubt about whether the church should be involved in the sanctuary movement, I suggest that we turn, as people of faith do, to our own Scripture and Book of Common Prayer.
Life as a follower of Jesus is messy. We cannot claim to love Jesus and yet fail to keep his commandments to extend love and hospitality to aliens as Jesus did. This requires our full participation to discern the ministry to which we are called, also contemplating our secular and legal obligations.
By the grace of God – for we cannot do this on our own power – we make our baptismal promises. Our response can only be, “I will …. with God’s help.”
Deacon Nancy Key
An Easter People: thoughts on Sanctuary
Deacon Nancy Key
(Published in the Friday Reflection)
As we rejoice in the Risen Christ in this season of Easter we are reminded of our obligation to carry the light of Christ into the world through stewardship of our all of God’s people. Our creed affirms our belief that all are created by God, and through our baptismal covenant we promise to serve Christ, respecting the dignity of every human being and striving for justice for all. We do this by standing in solidarity with the vulnerable and excluded in our society. And in this season, when undocumented immigrants live in fear of deportation, stewardship of God’s people invites our discernment of how we are called to respond to their needs.
Since ancient times, Christians and others have provided hospitality to strangers. Sanctuary, in various times of our history known as “Underground Railroads,” occurred during and after the Civil War for those fleeing racial injustice, and in World War II to Jewish people fleeing Hitler. In the 1980’s, refugees from the civil wars in Central America began fleeing to the United States; when the U.S. government did not recognize these as refugees, the “Sanctuary Movement” was born. More recently, action and discernment is taking place throughout the Episcopal Church. Note that the term “Sanctuary” is intended to include all forms of hospitality, and does not specifically mean physical sanctuary.
Faith communities throughout the United States are discerning how to respond. This column will become a regular Friday Reflection feature intended to provide information about Sanctuary, and ultimately create space for discussion. The links included here provide two resources from The Episcopal Church and a link to “Sacred Resistance” of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.
As we in the Diocese of San Joaquin ponder and pray about who and how we are called to be in responding to the plight of those immigrants and refugees facing deportation, below is a list of possible ways we can respond with hospitality. The provision of physical sanctuary is not included on this list because this runs afoul of the federal law against “harboring.” However, this topic is also being discussed and debated among the chancellors of The Episcopal Church. In the weeks and months ahead, I will be providing resources for each of the opportunities on this list, and will be inviting you to share your resources and reflections.
Faith Community Options for Engaging in Sanctuary:
Living our Baptismal Promises