Super Saturday Keynote Address Calls for a Prophetic Voice for Sanctuary
By Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane
FRAMINGHAM - The Rev. Noel Andersen, a national Grassroots Coordinator for Church World Service focusing on Immigrants’ Rights, delivered the keynote address at this fall’s Super Saturday event, which was attended by over 450 people. Andersen has been instrumental in the Synod 2017 Immigrant Welcoming Resolution, and draws on the prophetic witness of congregations wanting to stop deportations and lift up the immigrant story of those struggling to keep their families together in midst of unjust policies.
After being introduced by Associate Conference Minister Don Remick as a “voice of clarity, a summons to our conscious and a call to action,” Andersen thanked the Conference for inviting him to speak. “It is an honor to be here and reflect as to where we are in the world of pushing forward in the movement of immigration and refugee rights,” he said. “I know there is much power and much faith in this room because everyone who comes to this Conference event is engaged in their community and in their congregation, and are already doing the work of justice.”
During his address, Andersen mentioned that he has always been shocked by the hospitality and welcome he was given by the people he met while working in other countries. He remembered one particular conversation he had with one of the elders he was visiting. As the two broke bread together, the elder posed this question to Anderson: “When you come here we treat you as one of us, as one of our family members, so why is it that when we come to your country we are treated so poorly?” He didn’t have an answer then, and doesn’t have the answer now, but that question has stayed with him throughout the years. Andersen believes we are all called to address that question, especially during this time of escalating attacks on immigrants and refugees and the present administration’s policy to deport.
“Ephesians remind us of the human tendency of being drawn to the cunning, craftiness, and deceitful schemes,” said Andersen. “As the politics of fear has now taken the seat of power, we must ask ourselves ‘how are we to respond to the reality of hateful rhetoric in politics.’”
Once of the responses came in a chant he taught the attendees: “No ban. No wall. Sanctuary for all!”-- which the crowd roared in unison.
Andersen quoted three themes from the Epistles that he thought were pertinent to the immigrant and refugee issue: Confronting the empire, embodying Christ’s call, and building unity through diversity. He reminded folks that Paul was considered a threat to the powers in authority, and jailed and deported, and that Martin Luther was declared an outlaw and heretic. These foundational leaders confronted the empire, risked bodily harm, and embodied Christ’s call. He believes we are called to do the same.
Andersen told the crowd that the sanctuary movement offers some insight about movement building and about what it means to be a prophetic voice in these times. Since the election, the number of congregations engaged in the sanctuary movement has grown tremendously -- to nearly 1,000 (which includes more than 100 UCC sanctuary congregations).
“Andersen is an organizer who is creating a moral platform in a time of increased racial ethnic tension, of decreased civil discourse, and of heightened world anxiety among the most vulnerable and marginalized in our society.” -- Rev. Don Remick
“Sanctuary is the way to be in solidarity with the undocumented by creating a safe space for that prophetic voice of the immigrant to be lifted up and together confront unjust policies and laws that are tearing families apart. Faith communities can powerfully enact and embody their commitment to justice by supporting this effort, whether by small acts or becoming a Sanctuary Church.” Andersen ended his address by encouraging attendees to take their prophetic voice to the broader social movement, to the public square. He expressed that no matter where one is in their life journey, there is a role for them in the faith community and in the movement for justice, in order to build a world where all have dignity and where all are welcome.
“When we work together in unity, when we bring our faith communities along with us, when we build enough power to make real change, that is how we create movements,” said Andersen. “All effective social movements have a strong foundation of faith communities that give that spiritual feel to keep going, that moral foundation on which to speak the truth and love.”
If you want more information or are interested in signing up as a Sanctuary Church in the Massachusetts Conference, please contact John Allen of the Immigration and Refugee Concerns Task Team. Already voted to be a Sanctuary Church? Please contact Karen Methot to let us know. You can find Sanctuary resources on the Justice and Witness section of the Conference website.
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