faith in action

Being in ministry with: An interview with the Rev. Juhye Hahn

We spoke with the Rev. Juhye Hahn, a pastor who serves a congregation that has become a sanctuary church.

Millions of people around the world are uprooted from their homes, families, and livelihoods due to conflict, persecution, or economic distress. The process of becoming documented in the United States is expensive and therefore inaccessible to many. It can also take a long time, and many lose their temporary status while they wait. Some choose to sacrifice their employment and income to seek sanctuary as they challenge their deportation orders. Doing so is often difficult as it means they can no longer financially contribute to their families.

We spoke to the Rev. Juhye Hahn who serves as a pastor at a sanctuary church in the New York Annual Conference.

Tell us about the ministry.

First and Summerfield United Methodist Church in New Haven, Connecticut is a Sanctuary Church. In early spring of 2017, our congregation prayerfully considered taking this step and some of our leaders attended a training to learn about the process. We took a vote and unanimously decided to become a Sanctuary Church.

Since last August, we have offered sanctuary to two different individuals. Marco and Nelson are both fathers and providers for their families. The journey has been transformational for our church and community.

What dream is the ministry pursuing?

Our dream is to live out the teachings of Jesus Christ, and offering sanctuary has been an opportunity to practice our theology. We believe this is an act of Christian love. Jesus welcomed the stranger with love, acceptance and compassion. At First and Summerfield United Methodist Church, we attempt to do likewise.

Is there a particular moment or memory that stands out for you?

Marco is a skilled craftsman and during his four month stay he wanted to use his gifts to contribute to the life of the church. He knew we needed a portable lectern for our chapel and got to work. I preach from this beautiful creation every Sunday.

We began this journey thinking we were doing a service for others. But this partnership, this relationship, has been a blessing for all of us.

What have your neighbors taught you in doing this work?

In addition to learning more about the topic of immigration, our relationship with Marco and Nelson and each of their families has shown us what our responsibility is as a church. We have more confidence in our role in the community and have discovered our calling as a congregation.

What challenges have you encountered, and how have you adapted?

We did not know how much work it would require when we decided to become a Sanctuary Church. Offering sanctuary is only one ministry of our church and we are committed to continuing our other work. We have learned that I cannot do everything or be everywhere. Our members have stepped up to take on more responsibilities and fill new roles so that everything is being attended to.

How has the partnership transformed the ministry/church/community?

Our church is located near the Yale University campus. When word got out that we would be offering sanctuary, students from the school newspaper came to me with questions about the decision. They were surprised by the gesture because they did not think that churches got involved with social issues. Many of them had lost their hope in the church because they believed it to be a self-contained and irrelevant institution. Since then, many Yale students have taken more interest in our church and see it as a voice for justice in the community.

What advice would you give to others who are working to be in ministry with?

One of the common mistakes we make is that we see ourselves as a helper or giver and others as the needy. But, in my experience, when God brings strangers in our midst, they are blessings for us. Immigrants are not just people whom we need to protect but they are blessings for our community. Without them, we will miss the blessings that God has prepared for us.

How can people contact you if they are inspired by your ministry?

People can reach our church at 203.624.2521 or send us e-mail at We would love to share our experience and any information that may be helpful.