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Social Justice

Cottage Meetings Move Sanctuary Discernment Forward

First Unitarian Church of Milwaukee

By Mary Buchel, Sanctuary Discernment Team

Our Sanctuary Discernment Team held eight Cottage Meetings from October 1-November 5. We shared what we are learning about sanctuary and asked for your questions, concerns, and opinions. Thank you for participating. Based on our discernment process and your thoughts, we will make a recommendation to our Board of Trustees at its November 28 meeting. The Board will announce its decision regarding sanctuary support in December.

In addition to holding Cottage Meetings, the team is learning about other churches committed to immigrant rights and sanctuary. Back in February, Pastor Emmanuel Ríos at Iglesia Casa de la Restauración in New Berlin publicly declared his church a sanctuary church. We interviewed the Rev. Ríos and he said his church has a history of actively supporting immigrant rights. People in the community and some New Berlin High School Hispanic representatives brought in food, toys, and bedding, donated money, and volunteered their time. When asked about how the decision was made to offer sanctuary, Pastor Rios said he and his predecessor had a vision about offering sanctuary. They shared their vision with their Board. There was some concern about risk. They discussed the idea that “we are at risk all the time.” In addition, their church held forums on immigration rights, much as we are doing with Cottage Meetings.

When faith communities support or offer sanctuary, they do it publicly, using communication venues and social media, to take a public stand on immigrant rights. Coalitions of churches and synagogues make an even stronger statement. Currently, Senior Minister Jennifer Nordstrom is exploring forming a group of area congregations to work together to support immigrant rights and sanctuary.


The First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee is a progressive church for spiritual community, social justice, and intellectual freedom, active in Milwaukee since 1842.

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Parents, feel free to let your children experience our Religious Education classes up to three times without commitment to see if it’s the right fit. Find more about our Religious Education program here.

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