Written by Emily Mullins
The word "Chadash" means "a new thing" in Hebrew. So it's only fitting that Chadash Community United Church of Christ in Aurora, Colo., is embracing the opportunity to be part of a new, local coalition supporting immigrant families facing deportation. In an effort to more deeply affirm its solidarity with the country's immigrants and prevent the separation of immigrant families, Chadash Community UCC is one of five Colorado faith communities forming the Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition. The collaborative effort was announced at the First Unitarian Society of Denver on Wednesday, Sept. 10.
"A core value and practice of Chadash is that of embodying sanctuary – providing a safe space for body and spirit to honor and protect human dignity," said the Rev. Anne Dunlap, co-pastor of Chadash Community UCC. "Equally as important is that our work in the community and with our members includes close pastoral accompaniment with immigrant families in immigration processes, including detention and deportation."
Coordinated by the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice as an expression of faith in action, the Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition consists of two hosting congregations – Chadash Community UCC and the First Unitarian Society of Denver – and three supporting congregations – Mountain View Friends Meeting in Denver, Boulder Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Lafayette, Colo., and First Universalist Church of Denver. The Coalition will host an informational meeting for other congregations interested in getting involved on Sept. 18 at First Unitarian Society of Denver.
Through the Coalition, the member congregations are prepared to offer sanctuary to immigrants and their families, providing them a safe space in body and spirit to continue to resist their deportation, the ability to remain with their families and communities, and a public platform to shine a light on the harmful impacts of the country's immigration policies. The coalition was formed at the request of immigrant families in the community looking for the support and resources to allow them to fight the deportation process while ensuring the safety of their families.
"The families who asked us to consider providing sanctuary are ones with who we have been in relationship for a long time," Dunlap said. "We know their stories and struggles, and we see this as a continuation of our journey together."
Since Chadash Community UCC is a "buildingless" congregation, the church's role will be to offer culturally-sensitive and bilingual pastoral care, ritual, and prayer; the use of its sanctuary garden as a safe gathering space for all; commitment to presence and accompaniment during the immigration court process; and logistical collaboration and leadership, Dunlap said. At this time, the Coalition is able to house one to two immigrant families at a time, and families to be assisted are those under imminent threat or possible imminent threat of deportation that want to continue to fight their cases. The Coalition is working to expand its supporters and resources to accommodate more families should the need arise.
"We hope to keep families together," Dunlap said of the Coalition's mission. "We hope that immigrant families will know they are not alone, that we stand with them and are willing to take risks with them in order to prevent families from being torn apart by unjust policies."