refuge

Churches to Serve as Safe Spaces After Ferguson Grand Jury Announcement

People gather to march in Ferguson, Mo. on Aug. 15, 2014. Photo courtesy of Loavesofbread/Wikimedia Commons/RNS.

After a prayer service outside her church turned violent last month, the Rev. Teresa Danieley, pastor of St. John’s Tower Grove, allowed those trying to escape the demonstrations to enter her church.

Now, Danieley and dozens of other clergy members are preparing to once again offer their churches as safe spaces, or sanctuaries.

The grand jury decision on whether to indict Darren Wilson, the officer who fatally shot African-American teenager Michael Brown, is expected by the end of the month, potentially triggering further civil unrest. Clergy anticipate some might seek refuge in churches, whether to escape violence or find fellowship.

Organizations such as the Don’t Shoot Coalition, which was formed after the death of Brown, and Metropolitan Congregations United, a group of interdenominational, multiracial congregations from around the region, are in the process of creating a list of churches that are volunteering the use of their space. Many of these churches will be packed with supplies such as food, water, and phone chargers. Medics, legal observers and counselors will also be on hand.

Some believe that unless officers are needed in an emergency, churches should also function as police-free zones during protests.

Struggle of Faith

Early morning
before he unlocks the church gate
the rector kneels before
the gridiron fence surrounding the Cathedral,
not in prayer
but to collect empty wine bottles,
snack bags, and used condoms.

After shoving them into a bag
he turns the latch key and enters the churchyard
shutting it behind him.
The hollow, thunderous deadbolt
echoes through trees like the voices of
ancient saints.

The garden before him remains
a sunlit shrine
to the transfiguration of Christ,
and, when open to the public,
serves as a refuge for the homeless and despairing.

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Violence Against Women Act Faces Congressional Threat

Photo by Jonathan Pattee, LIRS
Protestor holds aloft sign urging Congress not to pass H.R. 4970, Washington, D.C, on May 15. Photo by Jonathan Pattee

Some victims, it seems, are more worthy than other victims. This is the clear message sent by a deeply flawed version of the Violence Against Women Act that is headed for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

But our faith dictates that such a dichotomy—worthy and unworthy—cannot be allowed. 

VAWA, as the act has been known since it was first passed in 1994, represents years of progress and bipartisan commitment on the part of Congress to protect victims of violence. But the version up for reauthorization in the House of Representatives, H.R. 4970, would roll back VAWA’s existing protections for battered immigrants leaving them more vulnerable —and in some cases, endangering their lives.

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