Author: hsnolder

Swastikas on door of UWS church

In the midst of a national and citywide spike in anti-Semitic acts, an Upper West Side church, which recently announced its status as a sanctuary for the undocumented, discovered a series of swastikas carved into its front door. The Fourth Universalist Society, a Unitarian Universalist church, learned of the vandalism on the morning of Feb. 28. “Our building engineer arrived at church and saw it carved on the front doors, facing Central Park West,” the Rev. Schuyler Vogel said. “We suspect it happened sometime that night before; our building closed at 10 p.m. — sometime between that and 9 a.m.” The church reported the damage to law enforcement that morning. While Fourth Universalist did not have a security camera, camera footage from two of the church’s neighbors was viewed but no suspect was found, Vogel said. The congregation is considering installing its own security system. Unitarian Universalism has Christian roots but evolved into a progressive institution without a specific required set of beliefs, Vogel said, explaining that atheists, agnostics, Christians, Jews and followers of other religious philosophies are members of his congregation. The vandalism, which is being investigated by New York Police Department’s Hate Crime Task Force, came in the midst of a 55 percent year-to-date increase in hate crimes from Jan. 1 to Feb. 26 compared to last year, according to the NYPD. During that same period, anti-Semitic...

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Reflections on the Travel Ban

On March 6th, President Trump signed a second version of an Executive Order on Immigration titled, “Executive Order Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States”. We asked our contributors to share their reflections about the situation immigrants and refugees are now facing and how faith plays an important role in welcoming the stranger.   Christians have begun the season of Lent. In my congregation, on the first Sunday of Lent we read the story from Genesis 12:1-4a when God sends Abram and Sarai on a journey. God says, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to a land that I will show you” (v. 1). And so, Abram and Sarai go. Abram and Sarai leave their country. They leave their kindred. They leave their family. And they become migrants. Their journey is long and troublesome, even though they go with God’s promise of blessing. From its very beginning, Christian faith has centered upon journey. Even those of us who haven’t moved in a while, who wouldn’t call ourselves “migrants” at the moment, have journeyed sometime in our past. As we remember our descendants in the faith who have journey far and wide, we are called to support, welcome, and show hospitality to modern migrants.   Rev. Adam Copeland, Director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders,  Luther Seminary If the Bible is...

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Houses of Worship Sign Up to House Undocumented Immigrants During Raids

MANHATTAN — As fear grips the city’s immigrant communities after this weekend’s arrests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, many houses of worship across the boroughs are gearing up to provide refuge to undocumented New Yorkers in the event of future raids. Interfaith networks focused on social justice issues, like the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York and Faith in New York, have seen a tremendous uptick in congregations reaching out to help since President Donald Trump took office and began issuing executive orders targeting immigrants. Communities are figuring out how they can offer space to shelter someone at risk of detention and deportation — despite their status in the U.S. — whether it’s overnight, for a week or for months, advocates said. Others are offering other assistance, like food for those staying at other churches or temples. At least 14 congregations in New York City are currently providing refuge to undocumented immigrants, according to Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper, senior minister of Judson Memorial Church, which has since November been sheltering an undocumented man about to be deported and awaiting a court hearing in its historic building across from Washington Square Park. “You can’t conceal or harbor people,” said Schaper, who is also a founder of the New Sanctuary Coalition, noting that her church hand-delivered a letter to ICE officials about what they’re doing. “The law has never been tested. When it is...

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Faith in sanctuary

After hearing reports of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids around the country, an Upper West Side congregation voted to make itself a short-term refuge for undocumented immigrants. “Hopefully it won’t be necessary to use that but there are raids that have already begun in New York City,” said the Rev. Schuyler Vogel, senior minister of the Fourth Universalist Society. “So we are prepared for that, if necessary.” On Feb. 3, Vogel received a call from an organizer from Faith in New York, a group rallying congregations to work on various social justice issues, and was asked if Fourth Universalist Society would become a short-term sanctuary. Fourth Universalist Society is not currently a member of Faith in New York but plans to become more involved in the group’s work going forward, Vogel said. Onleilove Alston, executive director of Faith in New York, said she’s been pleased to see congregations throughout the city have stepped up with commitments to provide sanctuary. “We’re Unitarians,” Vogel said. “They have this history of asking hard questions, fighting for democratic values and liberty, and we’re part of that. Allying with other progressive, liberal people of faith was a natural avenue for us.” Erin White, a longtime congregation member and president of Fourth Universalist Society, drafted a resolution on Feb. 5 to make Fourth Universalist Society a sanctuary, which the congregation then unanimously approved. “We...

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