On Sunday, January 7th, members of the Winchester Unitarian Society voted to become a Level 2 Sanctuary congregation. Through this special congregational meeting, the Society pledged practical and spiritual support to First Parish Bedford in Bedford, MA and the undocumented immigrant in their care. The votes were 69 for, one against and with one abstention. This decision came after four months of discernment through a worship service, reflection on a documentary about the immigration crisis (“120 Days,”) and public discussion with immigration attorney Susan Church, culminating in the Winchester debut of an original cantata by our Director of Music John Kramer, “The Immigrant Experience,” on December 10th (photos below).

The Sanctuary movement began in the United States in the 1980’s, with houses of worship offering undocumented refugees fleeing violence in their native Central American countries protection from deportation. A new Sanctuary movement has emerged in response to the current Federal administration’s targeting and persecution of undocumented immigrants. Some of these migrants – like the individual receiving sanctuary at First Parish Bedford – are also vulnerable to violence should they be deported home. For many Unitarian Universalist congregations, the First of the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism, “respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every person,” serves as inspiration for participating in the Sanctuary movement.

Our Sanctuary partnership with First Parish Bedford is open to individuals outside the Winchester Unitarian Society who feel called to lend care and protection to the marginalized in our society, are committed to fulfill responsibilities related to an immigrant living in sanctuary and willing to undergo training and a background check. Those interested in volunteering should contact the Sanctuary Task Force by writing to sanctuary@winchesteruu.org.