On March 12, 2016 about 150 people from Temple Micah and Park Hill United Methodist Church gathered to learn more about the Sanctuary Movement. We were moved by the urgency we feel in the current political climate to offer protection to those whose freedoms are threatened. We listened to and asked questions of Jenn Piper from the Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition; Chris Wheeler of First Unitarian Society of Denver (whose congregation is currently housing Jeanette Vizguerra) and Arturo Hernandez, who beginning in the fall of 2015 spent 9 months in Sanctuary at First Unitarian. The meeting was positive, frank and thoughtful. Pastor Smith and I came away feeling that our communities could continue to walk the path toward becoming a Sanctuary ourselves …
Pastor Smith received a call in late April from Jenn Piper, asking if we were ready to welcome someone into Sanctuary. He told her that we were not. On April 26, 2017, Arturo Hernandez was on his way to get tile to install on a job and detained by ICE agents. Arturo was the reason for Jenn Piper’s call to us.
The inertia of living our lives is powerful. The constant stream of information detailing potential or actual injustices overwhelms and even numbs us. We must navigate the powerful pull and sway of these forces and continue to be present in our larger world. We must choose to act in ways that – even in small measure – cultivate justice, compassion and peace in our world.
This week the Torah presents to us – an oasis in the textual desert of Leviticus – the Holiness Code. We are commanded: BE HOLY!! And as if the Author knew that the concept of the ‘holy’ is often misconstrued, the Torah lists some examples of what ‘holiness’ might entail…
- You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your the people of your land.
- Do not place a stumbling block before the blind.
- Do not curse the deaf.
- Do not deal deceitfully or falsely with one another.
- Do not render an unfair decision.
- Do not favor the poor or show deference to the rich.
- Judge your kinsman fairly.
- Love your neighbor as yourself.
… just to mention a few. With all of the cursing, stumbling blocks, unfair judging (well, you get the idea) out there, we have plenty of opportunities to work on this ‘holiness’ of ours. It is time to get to work.
I still believe that Temple Micah and PHUMC can honor and cultivate these values by becoming a Sanctuary for those undocumented souls who choose to walk the path of Civil Disobedience. Volunteers from both of our communities are working hard to move along in this process. In the coming weeks we will be working on the following aspects of this effort:
- Creating opportunities for our communities to learn, discern and discuss the various facets of the Sanctuary movement
- Evaluating and planning logistical issues around physically housing someone in our sacred space
- Providing each of our communities the opportunity to separately and formally sanction opening our shared sacred space as a Sanctuary to a soul in need.
Please keep your eyes and ears open for these opportunities to: learn more; ask tough, honest questions; get involved and add your voice to Temple Micah’s sanctioning discussion. (Most likely culminating at our Annual Meeting on Wednesday, June 21st.)
The next time we we get the call to BE HOLY, we will be ready.