RALEIGH, N.C. (RNS) — The church covenant makes it clear: The congregation is to be “a safe haven, free from the fear of judgment, where wounds are healed, differences are celebrated and inclusivity is intentional.”

Eighteen years ago, when they wrote that covenant, members of Umstead Park United Church of Christ might not have imagined that “safe haven” might also mean a place of sanctuary where a 39-year-old Mexican immigrant would take refuge from the immediate threat of deportation.

But in hindsight, that covenant clause seems prophetic.

This congregation of 300 members has become the first church in Raleigh to convert part

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