Risk: Last month the Harriet Tubman National Historic Park was established in Auburn, New York, becoming the 51st national site to achieve this distinction. The park commemorates the later years of Tubman’s life and honors her legacy as a bold, brave freedom fighter who, over the course of ten years, helped over 300 slaves escape to freedom.
I am inspired by the lessons of our past. Harriet Tubman is recognized as a national hero, but she did not work alone. Her work was dependent on the intricate network of ordinary people who formed the Underground Railroad; a network that included homes in Warwick, Chester, and New Windsor, where fugitive slaves were hidden and secretly transported in the night.
The Underground Railroad was an early form of Sanctuary, a movement which we are considering as a congregation. Our faith calls us to respond to the needs of our time: immigrants in our own communities are at great risk of deportation, and families are in danger of being divided. We too must consider what risks we are called to take. Sanctuary takes many forms — from city and town resolutions, to houses of worship offering harbor to immigrants, to rapid response teams gathering to peacefully interrupt raids in the street.
This month, we pose the question: What does it mean to be a community of risk? Perhaps we might look to those early sanctuary movements for insight. Perhaps risk is a collective endeavor, supported by many people with a shared commitment, working together across boundaries of race, class, and citizenship status. And perhaps we are called to place our trust, not in the tenuous security of walls, but in the expanded community of human relationship on the road to freedom.