How we became a sanctuary church

April 10, 2017
Submitted by the Rev. Craig Paschal
Pastor, Mancos United Methodist Church, Mancos, Colorado

On February 19, 2017 after a short but passionate discussion our small rural church voted to be a sanctuary church. How did we (our church) come to agreement on this complex issue?

Over the past twelve years as a pastor at Mancos UMC, we have lived in community with all of its ups and downs. As a community we have gone together to school Christmas pageants, little league baseball games, weddings and funerals, Vacation Bible School, youth mission trips to South Central Los Angeles and the Navajo Nation. Our kids have dated and broken up with each other. We’ve hosted community dinners after basketball games, track meets, high school graduations, and the death of loved ones. As parents, we spent time on the phones with each other tracking down our kids.  We did what neighbors do, live life together.

With the new emphasis and unpredictable nature on deporting undocumented people, tremendous fear seized some members of our community. For the first time, I realized that some of our friends and the friends of our children were not documented. New orders threatened to break up their families. Each of these families in Mancos have lived in our community for over ten years. We have shared so much life with each other; we have broken bread with one another.

As our church discussed sanctuary, one member said, “How can we call ourselves Christians if we don’t love our neighbors?” Can we call ourselves a church if we are not willing to offer sanctuary? What kind of church do we want to be?

The vote was unanimous. We will be a Sanctuary Church. 

Father Greg Boyle in his book Tattoos on the Heart says, "The strategy of Jesus is not centered in taking the right stand on issues, but rather in standing in the right place—with the outcasts and those relegated to the margins." During this time of fear and unrest, may we, as followers of Christ, stand in love with our brothers and sisters who might be undocumented. May we stand as neighbors living in beloved community.