These days, it is hard to look at both the calendar and the news at the same time. As we approach Memorial Day, when we remember and mourn the U.S. military personnel who have died while serving to protect American values, the seemingly unending horrific news from the war in Ukraine recalls the sacrifices made by the Greatest Generation and the generations that followed. June is National Immigrant Heritage Month, when we are called to remind ourselves of our identity as a nation of immigrants; yet meanwhile, ugly anti-migrant rhetoric and practices emanate from many quarters of American society. With UN World Refugee Day (June 20) on the near horizon, our southern border continues its two-plus year policy of refusing to accept asylum applications from those seeking safety from persecution.
Our Christian call to welcome the stranger has thus perhaps never felt so palpable—nor so overwhelming. This is indeed much to hold. Yet our baptismal covenant and Eucharistic tradition both compel us and sustain us here: With all the baptized, we recall The Last Supper and its invitation to wide welcome. Washed in the Spirit at baptism, we are called to radical inclusivity at God’s meal, one which we embody to the extent we share it with all.
This Spring, a season of renewal, has provided unique opportunities to invoke and live into our current Diocesan commitments and aspirations around migration, which have been elaborated by our fellow Episcopalians and were shared at last fall’s Diocesan Convention. At this challenging time, through ministries of service, advocacy, worship, peer education, and stewardship, we are reminded of our call to seek to manifest Christ’s risenness by welcoming, healing, and empowering our newest neighbors.
Worship, of course, frames, founds, and predicates the other modes. With this in mind (and following our successful study of the book of Exodus during Epiphany), the EDSD Diocesan Migration Task Force invites you (and others you may invite!) to an Eastertide-Pentecost study of Jesus Was a Migrant, by Deirdre Cornell. Beginning June 1, and on a self-paced rhythm, we will make our way through this short, accessible book through weekly Facebook updates and reflections. For more information or to join this book study, contact Troy Elder at email@example.com.
We are also called to humbly incarnate God’s prophetic witness by speaking truth to power. A few weeks ago, Bishop Susan Brown Snook and members of our Diocesan Migration Task Force, Clint Carney (St. Paul’s Cathedral), and The Rev. Alex Nagy participated in a virtual Sacramento “day of action” to promote policies that promote the humane treatment of migrants and immigrant communities. “
“It was fascinating to see our legislative process in action, and for me it was particularly moving to realize that my faith perspective built true common ground between people of different political outlooks. The people I met with were truly interested in understanding what the Bible had to say about welcoming the stranger,” said Bishop Susan, reflecting on her experience.
Serving as Christ’s hands, feet, and heart is the core of our Christian mission. As migrants continue their wait in Mexico, our ministry at the La Cobina Mexicali shelter in Mexicali continues, with desert congregations St. Margaret’s (Palm Desert) and St. Paul’s in the Desert (Palm Springs) providing spiritual, material, and emotional support to young families. On April 30, Mexico’s Day of the Child, a delegation visited the shelter, where the Rev. Lorenzo Lebrija celebrated a children’s Eucharist. On May 6, St. Margaret’s launched a successful Zoom hookup at one of the shelter’s sites, and St. Margaret’s plans to begin offering remote ESL classes soon.
Finally, a number of our congregations have begun the process of discernment about whether (and how) to welcome a Ukrainian refugee family into their community. They are working closely with The Episcopal Church’s Neighbor-to-Neighbor program, a project of Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) that trains and provides ongoing support to faith communities who serve as community sponsors for asylum seekers. Community sponsors welcome their new neighbors by offering friendship, fostering community connections, and providing practical support such as housing, assistance in accessing services and navigating the community, enrolling children in school, supporting adults in learning English and securing employment, and more.
In sum, this moment presents many challenges, yet many opportunities. As Saint Paul taught us, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) So as challenges mount, may we continue to be inspired to do good work together.
For further information about how to become involved in any of the above Diocesan Migration Ministries, please contact Troy Elder at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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