South Church's Decision to Offer Sanctuary

South Church's Decision to Offer Sanctuary

Leaders at South Congregational UCC in Springfield have been involved in studying the issue of sanctuary for undocumented immigrants for many months now, attending events sponsored by our partner agency in Springfield the Pioneer Valley Project, as well as the Pioneer Valley Worker Center in Northampton and Western New England University Law Center.  We have invited representatives from PICO and MCAN to address small groups and our congregation at worship.  We have learned that many of those with whom we share the city and the Pioneer Valley live under the oppressive burden of fear of detention, separation from family, and even deportation from the place in which they have made their homes.

Locally many other churches, agencies and individuals have participated in and made commitments to the development of support services for undocumented immigrants that are lacking here and throughout Western Massachusetts.  This process of study, discussion, identifying and gathering resources has culminated in an announcement made Friday, June 16th, of which the leadership circle of South Church and the leaders of the level two supporting churches and religious organizations have approved: South Church will offer level one sanctuary accommodations for our neighbors in western Massachusetts.

Hospitality and love of neighbor; ours is a faith tradition that clearly favors welcome over rejection.  These are values at the core of our faith.  As it was for Abram, Moses, Jesus and those who would follow him, so it is for us.  In these times, we must open our doors to those who are oppressed by the burden of fear and persecution.  At South Congregational United Church of Christ in Springfield the strangers in need among us will be welcome to take shelter and receive, to the best of our ability, the hospitality of this community of faith and our partners.  Working with the Pioneer Valley Project and these other Springfield faith communities – Holy Cross, Blessed Sacrament, Unitarian Universalist Society, Holy Name, and the Sisters of St. Joseph – and with others in the region, we will offer and will provide sanctuary to the suffering children of God in our time.

Since the announcement many other churches, agencies and individuals have reached out to us in support.  Your interest and prayerful support are encouraging to us.  If you would like more information about this effort you may contact Rev. Tom Gerstenlauer at South Congregational UCC – 413-732-0117 – or at  Bless the day!

Resources on being a Sanctuary Church:

Editor's Note:  South Congregational's decision to become a Sanctuary Church has drawn both support and condemnation in the community. Read more:

Interfaith prayer service held in Springfield to show solidarity with city's immigrant community, July 6, 2017

Church continues effort to be a sanctuary
The Reminder, June 29, 2017

Pastor: City Hall Statements Show 'Intent' To Oppress Immigrants And Those Who Help Them
New England Public Radio, June 25, 2017

In Springfield, Mayor And Church Square Off Over Immigration Sanctuary
New England Public Radio, June 19, 2017


Tom C. Gerstenlauer

The Rev. Tom Gerstenlauer is Pastor of South Congregational Church in Springfield, MA

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