It is the first Sunday after Easter, and Rev. John Fife is preaching to children. "Sometimes, to be a disciple of Jesus means to go places you would rather not go," Fife says, accentuating Jesus' words to Peter.
A few minutes later, Fife is preaching a slightly harder message to a somewhat older group: "The risen Christ is to be found in the persecuted and the suffering who live in the faith and die in the faith....To experience the risen Christ, you must stand with the persecuted who live and die in the faith....That's not us, folks," he interjects. "Don't be fooled by what's going on in a federal courtroom."
It was a regular Sunday morning service at Tucson's Southside Presbyterian Church, the congregation John Fife has pastored for 17 years. But less than four weeks later, the hearing and preaching of the Word on that Eastertide Sunday had taken on a new and far more personal application.
Because a federal jury had found John Fife and seven other sanctuary workers guilty for standing with the persecuted of Central America, Southside's pastor faced the prospect of being led to prison, where he would rather not go.
The jury's verdict, and its serious implications for Fife, marked an important juncture in the journey Southside has been on in the four years since all but two members of the congregation voted to make Southside the first sanctuary church in the United States. The worst-case scenarios the congregation had prepared for had become realities, but members of Southside did not despair. The night after the jury rendered its shocking verdict, the congregation had a special service—and a party. For with the guilty verdict, and all the spiritual trials it would mean, came a promise: a fuller knowledge of the risen Christ.