Closing Doors and Closing Borders
Hundreds of thousands of migrants are seeking refuge and asylum in the United States. Many factors… Continue Reading
Date: Easter 3 – May 4, 2014
Focus Text: Luke 24:13-35
The story of Jesus’ appearance to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, unique to Luke’s Gospel, is central to the evangelist’s message about the resurrection of Jesus and its meaning. It is one of the more unusual stories we hear about encountering Jesus, but it is Luke’s way of conveying that the surprising and the unexpected are to be found in the wake of Jesus’ resurrection. One of the most surprising things, at least for those disciples within the story, is that the stranger they meet on the road turns out to be the risen Christ. At every turn this story is about revealing and discovering Jesus—through scripture, through the breaking of bread, and even through encountering a stranger on the road.
Here at the North Carolina Council of Churches, I’ve had the distinct privilege of working alongside immigrant families, faith leaders, lay activists, and immigrant rights organizations across the state in pursuit of humane fixes to our broken immigration system. While my time at the Council is drawing to a close, I know that immigration reform for our country is not a matter of if, it’s when. How long will we let political games take precedence over real human suffering? I believe that in 20 or 30 years issues that seem controversial today – like whether immigrants deserve human rights, due process, and the chance to become a part of society – will be obvious.
I’ll never forget how it felt to serve dinner to this group. About 30 hungry, tired farmworkers arrived back at their camp just as it was getting dark, and they were kind enough to welcome us into their humble space for a shared meal. This group of mostly young men had been busy harvesting sweet potatoes down East. Most were indigenous Mexicans who learned Spanish as a second language, who didn’t know any English.
As we spooned out rice and beans and poured soda from two-liter bottles, I was struck at how rare it is for any of us to meet the people who actually produce and harvest the food we eat. From our history of slavery to our modern industrial context, our society has not really reckoned with the grim reality of those at the bottom of our food chain.
Here’s an immigrant congregation in Durham that is giving back to the community and making a real difference. It’s a beautiful story about what it means to be the church together. Do you know any immigrant churches in your neighborhood? How are they fostering community?
This video was produced by Uniting NC, a great organization working to make North Carolina a place in which all people, including immigrants, have the opportunity to thrive and to engage in their communities.
I will be leaving the NC Council of Churches at the end of March to focus full-time on Tomatillo Design, my new communications shop that works with nonprofits to create amazing, affordable websites.
Since I began working at the Council as an intern in the summer of 2006, I’ve had the incredible privilege of working with the most dedicated, talented and likable group of coworkers imaginable. From its founding more than 75 years ago to today, the Council has worked on a wide range of progressive causes and I’m proud to be a small part of that legacy. Every day at the office I felt encouraged by the witness of recent saints like Sister Evelyn Mattern and Collins Kilburn.
In these waning days of 2013, when the outlook for winning comprehensive immigration reform looks rather bleak in the short term, many of you have been asking me: what can we do?
While the pace of progress on immigration reform has been appallingly slow, we need to keep speaking up and taking action to show elected officials that this movement isn’t going away. I will be participating in the North Carolina Fast for Immigrant Families on December 17.
Here is a detailed invitation by our friends at FaithAction International House.
Date: Christmas 1 – Dec. 29, 2013
Topic: Hope for Refugees
Focus Text: Matthew 2:13-23
This story reminds us both of the circumstances of refugees and displaced peoples and of Israel’s story of suffering and hope, bondage and deliverance. As followers of Jesus we are also listeners to the story of Israel, because his story is their story. To listen to Israel—to hear her story—is to listen to the suffering of slavery, exile, and diaspora. Yet, it is also to listen to a story of God’s faithfulness in spite of Israel’s unfaithfulness and God’s deliverance in the face of their persecution.
NC Policy Watch
This week, House Speaker John Boehner stated flatly that there will not be any conference with the bipartisan Senate immigration reform bill. We’re hearing one excuse after another about how immigration reform is too complicated and there isn’t enough time for a vote. After months of dithering, it’s clear that House leaders are hoping to run out the clock on immigration. If it holds true that the House doesn’t vote on any other immigration bills, then an amendment to deport DREAM-eligible immigrants — which passed with overwhelming GOP support in June — will be the only immigration measure to have received a vote on the floor of the House in 2013.
More than 10,000 people of faith committed to the FAST Action, 40 days Prayer and Fasting for Immigration Reform. As we closed the 40 days on October 18th, we recognize the need for action and escalation is only growing as we approach a shrinking timeline for legislation.We must continue to lift up the moral imperative of immigrants’ rights and immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship.
Now many people of faith from all traditions are joining labor, immigrant and community leaders in setting the moral compass and raising our voices. Many faith organizations are joining the Fast for Family Unity beginning November 12th.
I was both excited and nervous as I unpacked my boxes in the parsonage to begin my first year as a pastor. It had been a busy day with people coming in and out of the house, but after a while I was sitting alone and I looked around my new home trying to decide how I was going to arrange my furniture. As I moved and pushed my furniture about, I felt prompted to look out through the front door to observe the community in which I would be living. I peered out of the window and there was a house diagonally across the street that caught my attention.
In celebration of World Day of Migrants and Refugees on September 24, Pope Francis said:
Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more.
Here in our own political context, we might re-word the Pope’s powerful message to say: Immigrants are not pawns for Congress.
It’s been 90 days since the US Senate overwhelmingly passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill, but the House has done nothing with it. In those 90 days, more than 100,000 immigrants have been needlessly deported.
On Sunday August 25, about a hundred Durham residents and faith leaders from seven different traditions gathered at the People’s Plaza to pray for our elected officials. As people with different stories, different colors of skin, even different faiths, we were united in our hope that Rep. Butterfield, Rep. Coble, Rep. Price and their colleagues in the House will support a just and moral immigration reform that offers a pathway to citizenship, unifies families, supports workers, and moves us forward together.
If you’ve been following immigration reform, you know that this month is crucial to the effort for overhauling our nation’s broken immigration system. While the US Senate passed a reform bill earlier this summer, the fate of millions of immigrant families lies in the House of Representatives. This month there are a number of key events happening across NC. When you participate in a prayer vigil or march, you’re letting our leaders and the media know that North Carolinians are serious about reform. We hope to see you there.
Somewhat lost this summer amidst all the conversation about comprehensive immigration reform is a little-known bill called the “Agricultural Guestworker Act” (or “Ag Act,” HB 1773) that has already passed out of the House Judiciary Committee. This harmful bill is a thinly veiled attempt to strip farmworkers of the few rights they have on the job while propping up agribusinesses’ bottom line.
We’re proud to be publishing these brand new church bulletin inserts on comprehensive immigration reform. With large color pictures and up-to-date facts and figures, these 8.5×5.5 inserts explain where things stand with federal legislation and offer congregants many different ways to get involved.
In these fever-pitch days of summer, with the once-in-a-generation chance at real immigration reform in Congress, we’re hearing a lot about how reform is good politics (for both parties) and good for the economy. These are of course important factors, especially in the political context of a major legislative fight on Capitol Hill, but for Christians, should these be the most determinative considerations?
Since the end of slavery in America, no workers have been more exploited than the men and women who bend to the earth in backbreaking labor, picking fruits, vegetables, and tobacco. Despite miracles of agricultural progress and innovation over the decades, the harsh lives and working conditions of migrant laborers have changed very little. Their cause has been championed in the past by Edward Murrow, Cesar Chavez, and the United Farmworkers. But that list is incomplete without Baldemar Velásquez . Velásquez was among hundreds of thousands of children who joined their migrant parents working long hours in the fields. Inspired by that early experience, Velásquez founded the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) in 1967.
Only in today’s Washington would legislation that grows the economy, reduces the debt, curtails illegal immigration, helps the GOP politically and enjoys public approval in the 80% range be seen as a problem for the House Republican caucus. With every flimsy excuse crumbling, it comes down to John Boehner. Actually his choice is pretty simple: a bipartisan majority for reform with a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America exists right now; he should find a way to have that majority express its will.
I finally had the chance to go my first Moral Monday earlier this week. Walking around Halifax Mall with our Executive Director, George Reed, I was struck by how many people we both knew. I’m deeply proud of the involvement by clergy and faith communities in particular. So many of our members are represented not only in the crowd but also in the faces of those participating in civil disobedience and getting arrested. As we celebrate Independence Day this week, we give thanks not only for the many freedoms our country offers, but in particular for the countless faithful voices speaking up and speaking out for those who are being pushed to the margins by this General Assembly.
This past week, the Nuns on the Bus national tour made stops in Durham and Charlotte to raise awareness about the need for just and humane immigration reform. In Durham, the Nuns visited the office of Church World Service, an amazing nonprofit that resettles refugees here in America.
I had the wonderful privilege of sitting down with Bishop Michael Curry to discuss this critical moment in the struggle for humane immigration reform. Millions of immigrant families are living in the shadows, afraid to drive to work or drop their children off at school. Here in North Carolina, thousands of children live with the constant fear that today could be the day that their parents don’t make it home. Immigrants are our brothers and sisters, and when one part of the Body of Christ suffers, we all suffer with it. That’s why it’s so crucial for faith communities to publicly support the US Senate’s immigration bill.
Nuns on the Bus – a 6,500 mile odyssey exploring the need for humane immigration reform – is coming to North Carolina during May 31-June 1.
Nuns on the Bus were welcomed last year by thousands of well wishers as they traveled from state to state in support of of federal budget priorities that address the needs of struggling families. This year, they are traveling across the Unite States–6,500 miles over 15 states–53 events in 40 cities–standing with immigrants, faith-filled activists, community organizations, and Catholic sisters who serve immigrant communities.
Their message is clear: Congress must act now to implement commonsense immigration policies that reflect our values, not our fears.
Now is the time to demand that North Carolina Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan stand on the right side of history and publicly support the Senate’s immigration reform bill.
Call 1-888-891-3271 and ask Senator Burr and Senator Hagan to publicly support immigration reform.
Last week, members of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) joined allies and activists from across the state in protesting Reynolds American Inc.’s treatment of farmworkers. Last year, Reynolds earned $1.3 billion in profits, but the company has hesitated to take proactive steps in guaranteeing good housing and fair pay to the workers at the very heart of its supply chain. Here at the NC Council of Churches, we have long supported farmworkers’ rights to living wages and dignity on the job. No one should have to work in slave-like conditions to provide for their family. Corporations should take responsibility for their supply chains, and the people whose labor makes possible their profits.
#Democracy means making our voices heard in free and fair #elections. Some people want to block eligible voters by saying vote by mail will “rig” the election. It’s not true: we’re all better off when our elections reflect everyone. nass.org/can-I-vote #CountEveryVote pic.twitter.com/Jo5u…
Our final installment of our forum series will focus on the importance of global common good! Our guest speakers will lead us in conversation on the importance of voting by standing up for, and voting on, the values of the global common good. Join us! us02web.zoom.us/meet… pic.twitter.com/FX8L…
Join us for a screening of “Answering the Call: The American Struggle for the Right to Vote.” The screening will be followed by a discussion about voter registration and voting procedures in North Carolina. us02web.zoom.us/meet…
The September issue of our newsletter will highlight the connections between food and our faith. Are you subscribed to receive our updates? Make sure to sign-up here: ncchurches.org/newsl… pic.twitter.com/a8E8…
Happening this Friday! Join us & our partners at @rafiusa & Resourceful Communities for a lively discussion on the importance of local food & farmers in our communities. Register at bit.ly/2FIh2B7. #NC #faith #health #nutrition #local #HealthyEating #HealthyLiving pic.twitter.com/pkdt…
Important read from @newsobserver, featuring the Rev. Jessica Stokes, PHW Associate Director for Mental Health Advocacy. Please remember that we are #StrongerTogether. We see you, we hear you, and we are with you. trib.al/YxeZcC2 #mentalhealth #MentalHealthMatters
RT @faithinplace On this #GlobalClimateDay, take action to address the injustice at the root of the problem. Whether you join in a virtual strike with @ilclimatemvmt, donate to a #ClimateJustice org, or solidify your plan to vote, there are lots of ways to #ActOnClimate. @DrDeJarnett @nehaorg pic.twitter.com/7wvV…
RT @interfaithpower Are your congregation's youth joining the #climatestrike tomorrow? As people of faith we give thanks for the persistence of young people in securing a livable future for us all. Pass this along so others can join in. @MNIPL @NCIPLYL @DeIPL @alinterfaithpl twitter.com/GretaThu…
RT @MomsAction Climate is too important for our children’s future to ignore. Too much is at stake. The #climatecrisis must be a standalone topic at the presidential #debates. Chris Wallace: #AskAboutClimate! #MomsAreWatching twitter.com/debates/…
RT @interfaithpower IPL is partnering with @greenthechurch and @CreationJustice on this important webinar on a new study connecting environmental pollution from fossil fuels with increased childhood cancer rates. Join us! #environmentaljustice is #ClimateJustice is #RacialJustice twitter.com/greenthe…