Meeting at the beautiful St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Winston Salem, NC, the North Carolina Council of Churches hosted a summit to help connect people of faith from across the state, who care about the plight of undocumented immigrants. After check-in and a short time of coffee, snacks and socializing, the break out sessions started. Ranging in topics from how to connect with Farm workers, to local and national lobbying stratagems, the sessions showed not only the complexity of the issue, but the different kinds of people who are investing their lives trying to help undocumented workers.
Families, volunteers, church leadership and representatives from the Mexican Consulate began learning and connecting with potential partners in helping. Over lunch everyone ate and talked amongst themselves, while a beautiful mixture of English and Spanish words wafted in the air. The experience of sitting together could not be over emphasized, but there was more for the participants. Eager to share the information they had just learned with their peers back home, many grabbed handouts to disperse. Though the literature available was a great resource, the presenters were indispensable. They were able to answer questions, showing their expertise in immigration law and how the immigration system works on the ground.
As the last sessions got underway people grabbed a cookie and another cup of coffee to carry them to 4pm. Many had driven hours to get to Winston-Salem and were ready for one more session. I attended ‘Black/Brown Unity Panel Discussion.’ Dr. Cesar Carhuachin from Charlotte, along with Rev. Nelson Johnson and Rev. Sekinah Hamlin from Greensboro discussed African American and Latino reconciliation. After introductions and initial comments, moderator Rev. Mark Sills opened dialogue up to the audience and young adults began discussing the struggles of reconciliation in church and in larger communities. The energy felt in the room was profound, and proved the need for similar opportunities in the near future.
As everyone began making their way to their cars to drive home, the sun began to descend. As the church cast its shadow, it seemed to give a reverent bow to those who gave that day to fellowship and learn about their new neighbors and how to love them as Christ loves everyone.
-Keith Gustine, NC Council of Churches Intern