For the past two weeks, the NC Religious Coalition for Justice for Immigrants has been on the road for its annual clergy breakfast series on immigration. These breakfasts are designed to encourage conversations about immigration and how churches can play a role in welcoming immigrants within their communities. The format of the breakfasts are relatively simple: clergy share a meal together and have time to network; speakers present topics related to what the Bible says about immigration and also what challenges immigrants in that particular community are facing; then there is a time for questions. It is meant to be a time when clergy can address honest questions to experts in the area, can become connected with resources, and can connect with one another to form networks of support.
The past two clergy breakfasts took place in High Point and in Grimesland (a suburb of Greenville) respectively. In High Point, Bishop Anne Hodges-Copple spoke prophetically about our call to love our neighbors and welcome strangers. Lori Fernald-Khamala, director of the NC Immigrants Right Project, shared testimonies of immigrants from the Greensboro area whose lives had been directly impacted by immigration enforcement.
In Grimesland, we were hosted by Unidos por Cristo UMC, a Methodist Church that is serving the local Latino community. Rev. Ernesto Barriguete, the pastor of the church, talked about his own experience immigrating to the United States and the challenges that he sees his community facing every day. In particular, he described the plight of one young person who feels called to be a pastor but is unable to afford seminary because the individual is undocumented. Rev. Bob Hudak, Council board member and rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, delivered a charge to Greenville clergy to come together to be a voice for the vulnerable in the Greenville area.
At both of these breakfasts, clergy asked difficult questions and talked about their frustrations in wanting to help but feeling their efforts are futile. It is events like these, however, where clergy can find hope that by working together we can make change in our community. There are still two clergy breakfasts and a lunch remaining, which will take place in Boone, Black Mountain and Winston-Salem in November. Please encourage faith leaders to attend these powerful and important, face-to-face meetings.