In the summer of 2017, our Senior Minister, Jeannie Shero, asked that a Discernment Committee be formed to consider the opportunity for First Universalist to be a Host Congregation with the Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition (MDSC). Beginning this past summer a Discernment Committee was formed and has been meeting monthly to outline the process. The committee is composed of Dan Moen (Co -Chair), Rev. Jeannie Shero, Rev. Aaron Norris, Elizabeth Mount, Judy Cardenas, Alan Schlessman, Jessica Montgomerie, Deanna Schneider, Toni Nading, Jonna Marie and Kathy Glatz. Several members of the team have been intimately involved with Sanctuary, including Dan Moen and Judy Cardenas, who through the Immigration Task Force have established close relationships with supporting organizations and individuals and bring valuable experience to the Discernment Committee. The group’s goal is to define the process of Discernment and then guide members through the information gathering and reflection steps, culminating in a congregational vote.
The Discernment Process initially focused on collecting information from members of the MDSC, current Host Congregations, as well as team members’ experiences. Based on partners’ experiences, the Discernment team began building a plan for Exploring Our Call to Sanctuary.
We welcome outreach and will respond to questions and concerns personally and on our “Q & A” page. You can contact any team member or our chair, Dan Moen, or our Ministerial Team representatives, Rev. Aaron Norris and Elizabeth Mount, Ministerial Intern.
Dan Moen, Chair of the Discernment Team, has been a member of First Universalist since 1996. Co-Chair of Immigration Task Force, Volunteer at American Friends Service Committee for Colorado for Immigrant Rights. For the past four years has served on the Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition in support of immigrants in Sanctuary. Email Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Create powerful, accountable partnerships with immigrant rights groups and with other faith communities. Members of our church have given support to all churches in the MDSC, including organizing and participating in quarterly Detention (GEO) Vigils, participating with Colorado for Immigrant Rights, Together Colorado and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
Create cross-cultural awareness and competence. Our Racial Justice Task Force has presented numerous programs. They include Implicit Bias Training, Two Teach-Ins on White Supremacy, and monthly films.
Assess the logistics of offering sanctuary. In consultation with church staff and leaders of all program areas, identify logistical and facility needs and the potential impact on our congregation.
Define the framework for congregational discernment.
Exploring Our Call to Sanctuary Kick-off:
- The Worship Service, February 4, led the kick-off to “Exploring Our Call to Sanctuary”.
- Worship was followed by “Immigration 101” discussion, presented by Jennifer Piper from the American Friends Service Committee. A second session was held Monday, February 12, and facilitated by Dan Moen.
- The legal ramifications for a Host Congregation were presented and discussed Sunday, February 11, facilitated by Attorney Kate Stimson.
- The Discernment Team began meeting with all Congregational Standing Committees to describe what it means to be a Host Congregation and answer questions.
The Discernment Team will consider feedback and input from the congregation as we proceed through the following steps and adjust the process, as needed; you all will be informed of dates for events as they are set.
- Communication about the various facets of Sanctuary will be provided an all-church emails, in the SJC newsletter and on the church website. This communication will include a FAQ document that will be expanded as questions surface during the various forums. Immigration facts will be posted in the Sunday Order of Service.
- The Discernment Team will meet with all Congregational Standing Committees to describe what it means to a Host Congregation and answer questions. The Team will reach out to every congregational group.
- During February and March, a variety of forums will be scheduled, such as:
- Talks by individuals who coordinate Sanctuary at the other Coalition congregations.
- Talks by former Sanctuary guests.
- The Racial Justice Task Force will show A Better Life directed by Chris Weitz.
- A “Listening Station”, to give members an opportunity to voice thoughts, suggestions or concerns, is being arranged to be available after some services.
- A “field trip” to visit a Host Congregation, where the facility accommodation can be viewed and questions can be asked of the sanctuary coordinator and sanctuary guest.
- April 8 is scheduled to be “Taking the Pulse” Sunday, asking members to indicate their desire for our church to be a Host Congregation, as well as their willingness to support Sanctuary as a volunteer.
- A series of Town Halls will be scheduled starting the end of April through early May to provide an opportunity for question answering and community discussion.
- At our May congregational meeting we plan to have a vote on whether First Universalist Church will become a Host Congregation.
Final Goal of Discernment
At the Congregational Meeting in May, the Discernment Team hopes to present a proposal on becoming a Sanctuary Host to the Congregation for a vote.
First Universalist Church of Denver Resources:
Watch the Denver Post profile of Arturo Hernandez, who was in Sanctuary at First Unitarian Society of Denver for nine months beginning in October, 2014 before receiving a stay of deportation.
Learn more about Arturo’s life in Sanctuary.
Listen to an NPR interview with Jeanette Vizguerra from March, 2017.