First Church Votes to Become Sanctuary Church

Sun, Jun 18, 2017

On Sunday, June 18 First Congregational Church of Berkeley, United Church of Christ voted unanimously to sign the National Sanctuary Movement Pledge (below) and formally establish itself as a Sanctuary Congregation.

During its May meeting, the Church Council heard from members of the Planning Team for the Sanctuary Movement at First Church Berkeley about the pledge and what declaring itself as a “Sanctuary Congregation” would mean for First Church. Following the presentation the Council voted unanimously to endorse the pledge and bring it before the congregation for approval.
The National Sanctuary Movement Pledge reads:

We pledge to resist any policy proposals to target and deport millions of undocumented immigrants and discriminate against marginalized communities. We will open our congregations and communities as sanctuary spaces for those targeted by hate, and work alongside our friends, families and neighbors to ensure the dignity and human rights of all people.


Why This Pledge and Where Does It Come From?

This pledge was written by the National Sanctuary Movement which is asking communities of faith to make a public, corporate commitment to walk alongside immigrants, mixed-status families, refugees and other targeted communities to uphold their dignity, due process and human rights regardless of immigration status. The Sanctuary Movement calls upon the traditions of our faiths, which recognized houses of worship as a refuge for the runaway slave, the conscientious objector, and refugees fleeing violence and repression. The reason to sign this pledge, rather than write our own, is to grow the numbers and influence of the national movement.
What Does Signing the Pledge Mean for Us?

By signing the pledge, we commit to:
•   educate ourselves about the realities facing immigrants and refugees in our community
•   amplify and respond to the voices of immigrant leaders
•   congregations who may be providing physical sanctuary
•   continue and strengthen what First Church is already doing to accompany immigrants and refugees

Some of the Activities First Church is Already Involved In

•   volunteering with the Nueva Esperanza Immigrant PreSchool in East Oakland
•   forming trained “accompaniment teams” to help provide courtroom accompaniment, access to services, transitional housing and other material and emotional support to those in a period of crisis.
•   advocating at the local, state and national level for policies which protect the due process of immigrants, prevent mass deportations and promote full dignity and integration of immigrants and refugees into our local communities.
•   engaging in local public actions and activities to shift public discourse towards immigrants, Muslims, and refugees, and bring attention to our responsibility to address root causes.
Signing the pledge does not commit us to providing physical sanctuary for someone facing final deportation although it does not preclude us from considering this option in the future once we have rebuilt our facility.
Members of the Sanctuary Movement at First Church Planning Team

Emma S., Michelle Sepe and Victoria Purcell-Gates
Contact Rachel Bauman, Minister of Community Life with questions (

•   Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity
•   United Church of Christ Resources on Sanctuary
•   National Sanctuary website and toolkit
Bay Area Sanctuary Congregations

Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana Hispana
University Lutheran Chapel, Berkeley
St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Berkeley
Kehilla Community Synagogue, Piedmont
Oakland Catholic Worker, Oakland
St. John of God, San Francisco
St. Agnes Church, San Francisco
First Congregational Church of Palo Alto
Episcopal Diocese of California
Shomeret Shalom Global Congregation
Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church
Congregational Church of San Mateo
Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Redwood City
Oakland City Church
St. Columba’s Catholic Church on San Pablo in Oakland
Temple Sinai in Oakland