Service, gathering to mark year of sanctuary for Lucio Perez

  • Lucio Perez stands outside First Congregational Church in Amherst. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/10/2018 11:56:58 PM

AMHERST — Last year, on Oct. 19, Guatemalan immigrant Lucio Perez made a decision that would affect his life for the foreseeable future.

Next Friday will mark a year since Perez, of Springfield, made that decision — entering sanctuary at First Congregational Church, avoiding deportation by remaining inside the walls of the church, which federal immigration agents consider a “sensitive location.” 

To mark the occasion, the church and Perez’s supporters will be hosting two events: a service on Oct. 14 at 10:30 a.m. and a community gathering on Oct. 20 beginning at 4 p.m. Both events are open to the public.

Rev. Vicki Kemper of First Congregational Church said that the church service will include a ringing of the church bell 361 times, and will be both a reflection on the past year and a renewed commitment to Perez and his family going forward. 

“Saying, ‘Yeah, we know this demands a lot of us, and it’s a long haul. And we’re still committed not only to the cause of immigrant justice, but to Lucio and his family in particular,” Kemper said.

On Oct. 20, the church and the Pioneer Valley Workers Center will be hosting a community event, during which attendees will circle the church with candles to call for Perez’s freedom and the protection of immigrants. There will be a light potluck later in the evening.

“A show of solidarity,” was how Margaret Sawyer of the Workers Center described the event. “But also making a public statement to visually show just how many people are behind Lucio. To show that our community really supports him.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at

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