Why Offer Sanctuary?

“You who are fearful, who live with shadows / hovering over your shoulders, / come in. / This place is sanctuary, and it is for you.”

–the Rev. Kathleen McTigue

At Unitarian Universalist Society: East’s (UUS:E) 2018 annual meeting on May 20th, the congregation declared itself to be a Sanctuary Congregation and stated its willingness to offer physical sanctuary to immigrant(s) seeking to pursue their legal options in response to a deportation order. The text to UUS:E’s Sanctuary Congregation Resolution is here

Sanctuary Guest Update

Sanctuary Guest Update
As many of you know, on October 26, Rocky moved out of the church and into his own small apartment near downtown Manchester. This was made possible by the support of the Policy Board who pledged to provide him financial assistance, to augment the monies raised by the Sanctuary Committee. Although Rocky is currently attending the Goodwin College Manufacturing Readiness program, has secured a seasonal part-time job, and continues to look for additional employment, he is not yet able to fully support himself.  To offset the financial burden to the congregation, the Sanctuary Team is continuing to request donations.
              Donations to the Sanctuary Team may be made by writing a check to Unitarian Universalist Society: East and putting the word Sanctuary on the memo line and mailed to 153 Vernon St. West, Manchester, CT 06042. If you desire to pay by  Credit Card or PayPal, please go to our GoFundMe page www.gofundme.com/help-a-sanctuary-family-in-crisis.  All donations, no matter how small, are appreciated.
               If you have further questions, please contact [email protected]


The Sanctuary Team is requesting donations to support Rocky with the upfront costs for the first couple of months in an apartment. (We currently have all the necessary furnishings for the apartment– Thank you to everyone.)  On Sept 30, Rocky will be entering the Goodwin College Manufacturing Readiness program and is currently looking for a part-time job so that he might support himself. If you have any leads in the Manchester or East Hartford area, please contact Sid Soderholm at [email protected].  Ultimately, we hope to help him find a small or efficiency apartment in the East Hartford, preferably the Goodwin College area, or on a bus line with easy access to Goodwin and his employment.  If anyone knows of anything available, please contact [email protected].

Donations to the Sanctuary Team may be made by writing a check to Unitarian Universalist Society: East and putting the word Sanctuary on the memo line and mailed to 153 Vernon St. West, Manchester, CT 06042. If you desire to pay by  Credit Card or PayPal, please go to our GoFundMe page www.gofundme.com/help-a-sanctuary-family-in-crisis.  All donations, no matter how small are appreciated.

Sleepover People needed

With help from the staff and Sanctuary Team, Rocky appears to have settled into his life at Unitarian Universalist Society: East.  He is meeting with his attorney frequently and they have begun working on his Asylum case.  To maintain his safety and to comply with the UUS:E rule that no person be left alone in the building, we will continue to have a person sleeping over every night for the duration of Rocky’s stay.  This means that we need your help! Currently, we only have about 6 people on the Sleepover team, and they would like to spend a bit more time in their own beds.  With just a couple dozen more people, folks would only need to spend one night a month sleeping at the church. If you are able to spend a night (9:00 PM to 7:00 or 8:00 AM) sleeping on the futon in the Affirmation room, please let us know at [email protected] (Annie will pass on the information). We will make sure that you get oriented to the routine (e.g. checking doors, locking up) before your stay.

Monthly Potlucks

So that more people may get to know Rocky, we are organizing monthly potluck dinners with 6-10 people. Even if you have met him, but would just like to join in the fun, please do.  The dinners will take place in the Chapel and classroom #1 space on a variable day and time schedule to accommodate different needs.  We may even do a potluck lunch sometime as well.  These meals have a couple secondary benefits. First, it gives Rocky the opportunity to taste some of our favorite foods, and second, it fills Rocky’s frig with leftovers.    There are many foods beyond what rocky chooses at the grocery store that he enjoys, like fish, especially salmon, that he doesn’t cook.  But he is skilled at reheating in the microwave!  If you are interested in joining one of these potlucks, please contact [email protected].

 Pocket Money for Rocky

Need your leaves raked?  Christmas decorations hauled out of your attic? Help cleaning out your garage?  Need snow shoveled? Ask Rocky!

As an asylum seeker, Rocky is not allowed to seek any employment in this country until his asylum is granted.  But he is able to accept odd, domestic jobs for which folks might give him a small amount of cash.  Having pocket money means he could go to the movies, go out with friends, take the bus somewhere, in essence, be more independent. If you have a task you’d like help with, please contact him directly, or if you need help contacting him, please let the office at [email protected]  know and we’ll help you out.

 Donations Greatly Appreciated

Rocky’s needs are few, but we are buying him food, paying for his cell phone, and have purchased a few basic clothing items to help him begin to manage winter. (He is looking forward to seeing snow!) We also may need to purchase a new futon or mattress for folks sleeping over.  Not sure what other needs may come up, but he will probably be with us for at least 6 months.

To make a charitable donation:

     By Check- Please write ‘Sanctuary’ in the memo line and send a check to:

Unitarian Universalist Society: East
153 Vernon St. West
Manchester, CT 06042

     By Credit Card or PayPal-go  to our GoFundMe Account


Click Here for Sanctuary Congregation Team Reports (Thanks to the UU Congregation of Danbury, CT for providing the model for these reports!)

What Sanctuary Is

We would offer physical sanctuary (a temporary home)  to immigrant(s) who have received a deportation order but need more time to pursue their legal options.

What Sanctuary Is Not

Sanctuary is not meant to be a permanent or long-term solution for the immigrant. It is the last resort for someone who has an open deportation order. If UUS:E offers sanctuary to an individual or family, we can (and truly must) confirm that they have competent legal counsel and that we are providing housing only while they have active legal options in progress. If their legal options become exhausted and their deportation order has not been lifted, sanctuary would end, and they would be forced to leave the country. They would not stay with us in perpetuity.
Where would the person stay?
We likely would transform one of our Garden Level classrooms into a living space for the immigrant(s), who also would have access to the break room, showers, and laundry facilities. The displaced RE class would most likely be held in the chapel.
What does our insurance company have to say about this?
Our insurance company, Church Mutual, informs us that they are working with lots of other congregations who are offering sanctuary, and they are fully prepared to support us.  As long as we don’t break the law, our insurance coverage is unaffected by providing sanctuary. Church Mutual considers this part of the “ministry.” They even have a Risk Control Center (accessible by phone or web) as an ongoing resource to their customer churches, including those specifically involved in sanctuary.
How much will this cost the congregation?
This is difficult to predict. With an individual living in the building, we can anticipate increased costs associated with utility usage, kitchen usage, and staff-time (sexton, minister, office-administrator). With a couple or family living in the building, that usage would increase further. We would expect anyone living in the building to clean up after themselves, but even the best cleaners miss a sport here and there.
In terms of direct financial cost, we anticipate doing fundraising each time a guest stays in the building. While we would invite UUS:E members and friends to contribute, we also have a growing list of people in the wider community who have assured us they will contribute financially as well. In many cases, the guests’ families contribute money for food and other amenities. In the case of the Meriden UU Church, the Muhammed Islamic Center of Greater Hartford raised $2,000 for the church. Most sanctuary congregations report generous support like this. Of course, we cannot predict what kind of support we might receive, but no sanctuary congregation reports that they feel alone in their efforts.
Won’t this be disruptive? 
Yes. Providing one of our rooms to an individual or family would likely be disruptive. But the disruption we would face is minimal in comparison to the disruption a person faces when they are forced to leave family, home, work, and country. Like so many Unitarian Universalist congregations who have already provided sanctuary, it would be a clear demonstration of our second principle, “justice, equity and compassion in human relations,” in action. And although it would be disruptive for us, as Rev. Josh said in his March 4th sermon, “given the need in the nation right now, given the unconscionable lack of compassion on display in Washington, DC these days, given the injustices of our current immigration system, I say it is a spirit-filled risk worth taking.”

Resources for Further Study

For a wonderful article on the way sanctuary impacts those who seek it and those who provide it, see “A Sanctuary of One” in the March 31st issue of the Washington Post.

Two recent AP News articles are very helpful in understanding the experience of immigrants in sanctuary. See “Immigrant Mother Hiding in New York City Church Vows to Stay,” about sanctuary at the Fourth Universalist Church of New York. And see “Housekeeper Welcomes Roles as Symbol in Immigration Fight,” by UUS:E member, Pat Eaton-Robb.

For an article on Unitarian Universalist congregations offering sanctuary to immigrants seeking to avoid deportation, see Three UU Congregations Sheltering Immigrants, from the fall of 2017.

For the story of the UU Church of Meriden current provision of sanctuary to Sujitno Sayuti, see “You Cannot Go Out” from March 2018.

For an in-depth review of what it means to be a Sanctuary Congregation, check out the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Toolkit.

View the ACLU’s “Know Your Rights” video.

To review the UUS:E Sanctuary Congregation Team’s weekly reports, click here.

If you have further questions about why UUS:E ought to provide sanctuary, and how we will do it, please contact Judi Durham, Rhona Cohen or Rev. Josh Pawelek.