Standing Up and Speaking Out for our Neighbor: Becoming an Immigrant Welcoming Church

by Dawn Adams


7/9/2019

by Rev. Dawn M. Adams, First Congregational Church of Brimfield (MA)
Member of the Immigrant, Refugee, and Asylum Task Team

 

Berkshire Interfaith Organizing Organization meeting where over 14 congregations came together to discuss next steps in their journeys to speak up for, and walk with, immigrants.
A voice cries in the wilderness, “Make straight the paths. Lift up every valley. Make every hill low.” (Isaiah 40:3-4)  A voice cries for justice in preparation for the ushering in of God’s Kingdom. I imagine, though, not “A voice” but many: a cry coming from every corner of the earth.

Unfortunately, our scriptures show us that individual prophets are not well received, their messages are often ignored, and they are frequently ridiculed, dishonored, exiled, or worse. A throng of prophets, however, crying out, is much less likely to be ignored. This is one of the many benefits of our covenantal connections. We can maintain our autonomy, while still jointly making a statement.

What does it sound like when voices of over 625 churches in the new TA1 Conference come together to proclaim justice? What does it sound like when all 5,000+ churches nationally of the UCC speak in one voice? I pray that it makes an unavoidable call for care and justice. This is the basis of the call for congregations to become “Immigrant Welcoming” congregations.
 
The “Immigrant Welcoming” title, like that of Open and Affirming (ONA), Just Peace, or Green Congregation, is meant to signify that the whole congregation (not just the mission team or other small group) has undergone a discernment process which includes education on the issues surrounding immigration (including but not limited to refugees, asylum seekers, undocumented persons, detention and for-profit prisons, racism, causes of migration currently and historically), a practice of prayer, a study of scripture, and results in a unified and ratified statement which lays out how that particular congregation understands what it will mean for them to be “Immigrant Welcoming”, and defines how they plan to live out that proclamation. (It is important to clarify that being “Immigrant Welcoming” does not necessarily mean that a congregation is or plans to be a sanctuary church, although it may mean a particular church lives out their statement in this fashion.)

The “Immigrant Welcoming” statement, when spoken as a whole congregation, grows in strength. When congregations, such as in our new three-state conference, come together to speak as a collective of congregations, that message is amplified. When the churches of all the conferences across this nation do the same, the call for God’s love and justice will be hard to ignore.
 
Thus, we, the Immigration, Refugee, and Asylum Task Team, call on you to make an official “Immigrant Welcoming” statement in your congregation and to notify us when that has been made. We ask you to publicize your statement. Place the statement you create prominently on your web page.  Post it in your church. Create a press release to your local media. Then, please let the Immigration, Refugee, and Asylum Task Team know your position so that we can work to keep you in the loop when help is needed or information is available. Do not light a lamp and put it under a bushel basket, but instead place it on a lampstand, so it shall give its light to all in the house. (Matt 5:15)
 
Fortunately, we, as individual congregations, are not left to walk this discernment path alone. The national denomination has created a workbook full of ideas about putting a plan of discernment together. It includes resources to refer to and even contact information for people who can guide you along the way. Access the United Church of Christ's Immigrant Welcoming Workbook here.  Additionally, the Immigration, Refugee, and Asylum Task Team is here to walk with you as well. There is also information online at both our denomination’s website and the MA Conference website.
 
This process by no means is meant to slow down the work that any congregation is currently or planning to undertake, nor push another congregation where they are not ready to go. It is meant to encourage engagement in this important and timely topic; and to lift up and amplify the single voices already crying out, so that we can weave them together into a unified song of acceptance and love such that our collective statement cannot be ignored. Please join us and lift up your voice to sing of God’s love and justice for all people, everywhere.
 
To contact the Immigration, Refugee, and Asylum Task Force you may email Pastor Dawn at pastordawnadams@gmail.com.

Related: From Noel Anderson, Church World Service

The Sanctuary Movement has had broad support for years among faith communities, but now we’re calling on congregations to resist raids by opening their houses of worship publicly, and join the call for #SacredResistance: a public list where local immigrants rights leaders and community members in need can find safe spaces in case of raids and deportations. Together we can do the following:
  • Continue to build a network of houses of worship that are willing to resist the raids through creating safe spaces to accompany partner organizations in deportation defense 
  • Accompany undocumented community members through public facing safe spaces that can provide shelter, food, clothing, legal service and assistance in family reunification when possible
  • Complement local organizing efforts around rapid response that also encompass concrete ways to engage the faith community
  • Make a profound prophetic faith statement and publicly resist raids and deportations.
Will you join thousands across the country in joining the #SacredResistance Network?  If you are already a Sanctuary congregation, but have not signed up to join the public list, please do so today. If a public facing map doesn’t make sense in your region, you can opt to be part of private list for raid response. If you have questions or concerns please see FAQ and then consider reaching out for any additional discussions: nandersen@cwsglobal.org

Dawn Adams



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