Sunday service at the South Congregational Church in Springfield, where a woman is finding sanctuary, took on a new meaning Easter Sunday.
Senior Pastor Tom Gerstenlauer preached a personal sermon about “Hospitality & Love,” to his congregation.
The church has been at the center of controversy and local politics for providing sanctuary for Gisella, a Peruvian mother of two facing deportation.
According to Pastor Gerstenlauer, Gisella declined to attend this service. He said, “Whenever there’s a disturbance outside, in the world, it can test you. This whole week has turned into an inspiration for me and revealed things about our ancient wisdom, that I didn’t have a great deal of clarity about.”
Linda Matys O’Connell of Springfield told 22News, “Christ preached radical hospitality. He ate with the lepers. He ate with prostitutes. This is the hospitality that the church needs to provide to everyone.”
Last June, the church was declared a sanctuary for people facing deportation, which is something Mayor Domenic Sarno does not support.
In a statement sent to 22News, Mayor Sarno said, “My administration has a responsibility not to jeopardize potentially millions of dollars of federal funding our city utilizes to continue to enhance all our citizens and business community, by becoming a sanctuary city.”
City councilors propose prohibiting the city from interfering with places of worship providing sanctuary.