Bethesda Presbyterian Becomes ‘Sanctuary Church’

Pastor says it will welcome refugees, immigrants should they need protection

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The sign at Bethesda Presbyterian Church notes "We're a sanctuary church" – Photo provided by church

Bethesda Presbyterian Church plans to open its doors to refugees and immigrants seeking protection against possible federal immigration enforcement measures.

Pastor Chuck Booker said this week the church’s board unanimously approved a policy to make it a “sanctuary church”—putting it among a growing group of worship centers across the country that have publicly declared their plans to protect individuals seeking refuge from a new federal focus on deporting undocumented immigrants under President Donald Trump’s administration.

“We have the space and facilities to accommodate one or more persons should they need protection during this difficult time,” Booker said. “We are ready to open the doors of our sacred spaces.”

The approximately 55-member church at 7611 Clarendon Road signed a pledge on sanctuarynotdeportation.org—joining more than 800 faith communities across the country—to resist the Trump administration’s plans to target and deport millions of undocumented immigrants.

Booker said he doesn’t know of any other churches in Montgomery County that have adopted the sanctuary church designation.

“This is what we are about as a church,” Booker said. “We hope it could inspire other churches and faith communities of all kinds to reach out in a similar way.”

He said no one has come to the church seeking sanctuary yet and that he’s not sure what the church would do if federal immigration enforcement agents were to try to enter the property to detain anyone being sheltered there.

“That’s the ultimate question,” Booker said. The church is sending representatives to a meeting March 13 at All Soul Unitarian Church in Washington D.C., another sanctuary church, where faith leaders will discuss what steps they can take to protect individuals they are housing.

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