When catastrophe strikes, instinctively we reach out to those we love whom we fear may be in harm’s way. I reached out to our good friends in the Episcopal Diocese of Texas: Bishop Andy Doyle, and two former Church House staff members, Jason Evans and Simon Bautista, who now serve that great diocese. They and their families are safe, and their minds solidly fixed on how they might be of service to their neighbors.
To be sure, many of our brother and sister Episcopalians–lay and clergy–are among those who have been evacuated and lost everything. Many church buildings have been damaged. Thus, as for other other service providers in the affected areas, the Episcopal Church is called to offer help while also needing help. In Bishop Doyle’s words:
We pledge to be conduits through whom God brings healing and renewal to others. We also commit to allowing other human beings to be vessels through whom God brings healing and renewal to us, for receiving is always its own kind of courage.
“Keep the prayers coming,” he texted me. “We need them.”
Jason Evans, now serving as missioner for the Diocese of Texas, was among the first volunteers at the Houston Convention Center. Amidst thousands waiting in lines for a cot, change of clothes, and some food, he met an elderly woman who had waited with her husband and sister to be rescued from their rooftop. When no help came, they walked for a mile in water up to their chins until a dump truck driver saw and picked them up.
Jason also met a young man who worked in a residential home for low-income, severely disabled adults. He had stayed with the residents until help arrived. “They hadn’t eaten for days,” Jason said. He helped the young man care for the residents–changing catheters and diapers, getting them water and food. “The guy was amazing,” Jason said. “He’s probably paid minimum wage, but he wouldn’t leave until all in his care were safe.”
Simon Bautista now serves as the Latino and outreach missioner at Christ Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Houston. This week, he’s been working to ensure that the cathedral’s Latino families are connected, well cared for, and able to serve their neighbors. He described the surreal experience of watching highways turn into mighty rivers, and of people lining up for miles, it seemed, either seeking or wanting to offer help. “Growing up in the Dominican Republic, I’ve seen a lot of hurricanes,” Simon said, “Never in my life have I witnessed such devastation.”
Both Simon and Jason’s families are providing lodging and gathering space in their homes. Both remain grateful for our love and prayers. Both acknowledged the magnitude of the work before them. “The recovery effort will take years,” Jason predicted. “Right now, the eyes of the world are upon us,” Simon said. “Please don’t turn away when the world’s attention moves elsewhere.”
Of course the physical and emotional toll is high. “We walked for two days in search of milk for a three-year old living with us; I worry about running out of food,” Simon told me. Jason said, “When I saw the sun shining for the first time since last Thursday, I broke down and wept.” Bishop Doyle wrote, “I was and continue to be a bit in shock with all that is going on.”
Yet here is a calm, prayerful resolve emanating from the Diocese of Texas. Its people are organizing for a sustained ministry of presence, compassion, and direct aid. Again, from Bishop Doyle:
We are engaging the mission of Harvey that has found us. And we are so fortunate to have friends from across the communion who have reached out as a sign of hope, who are offering prayers, who are reminding us that the storm shall not have the last word. Death and destruction never has the last word and we are ready to give a testimony to the hope that is in us. God is good and we are buoyed, literally, by the love of friends and coworkers here and around the world – for that is the love of Christ which is greatly evidenced in such dire times.
And always the good neighbor himself, Bishop Doyle reminded us not to forget those throughout Texas and Louisiana. “As the storm has left us, it now batters our brothers and sisters to the east.”
In whatever ways we can, Jesus invites us to be good neighbors, now and in the future.
Interfaith Leaders to President Trump and Congress: “Support Dreamers, Keep DACA in Place”
Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Leaders Issue Joint Statement in Support of “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” Program
In response to growing concerns about President Trump’s consideration of discontinuing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl, archbishop of Washington; the Right Reverend Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington; Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig, senior rabbi of Washington Hebrew Congregation; and Imam Talib M. Shareef of Masjid Muhammad, The Nation’s Mosque, have published the following open letter to President Trump and Congressional leaders.
Dear Mr. President and Congressional Leaders:
As leaders of the three Abrahamic faiths, we look to our sacred texts and traditions in seeking to follow the way of peace. Our respective teachings are clear, and we speak with one voice when we say: supporting the dreams of young immigrants in the United States is consistent with the foundational values of our nation, and with the moral imperative of extending hospitality to the stranger, of caring for immigrants and children, and of loving our neighbors as ourselves.
Nearly one million young immigrants have benefitted from the DACA program since its inception in 2012. Among that number, many of the program recipients are members of our respective faith communities, as well as the communities we mentor, in and around the nation’s capital. We have witnessed firsthand the relief and pride in our young people’s faces as they finally came to feel validated and safe by participating in a program that made them feel more at home—in the only country they have ever considered home. But now, anxiety and fear for their futures has returned.
We note that DACA has widespread support across the country and among politicians who agree on little else, for good reason. DACA has dramatically improved the lives of these young people and the communities in which they live:
95% of DACA participants are working or attending school;
68% of those working have seen their pay increase and thus are paying higher taxes;
50% now have driver’s licenses, which makes the roads safer for everyone;
54% have purchased their first car; and
12% have purchased their first home.
Rescinding DACA would have widespread, devastating impact not only on a generation of industrious young people, but also on their families, communities, and our society as a whole. Thus we add our voices to those urging you, Mr. President, to keep this policy in place until Congress puts in place a permanent solution.
It is our collective prayer that in the coming months, Congressional leaders work together to pass sensible and comprehensive immigration reform that our country so desperately needs, including making the DACA program permanent. But until that time comes, the least that our country can do is to continue supporting our dreamers. Keep DACA in place, Mr. President.
The Right Reverend Mariann Edgar Budde
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington
Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig
Senior Rabbi of Washington Hebrew Congregation
Imam Talib M. Shareef
Masjid Muhammad, The Nation’s Mosque
His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl
Archbishop of Washington
Hatred cannot drive out hatred. Only love can do that. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Once again our nation’s demon of racism has reared its head, spewing hatred and inciting violence. What we saw in Charlottesville was unmasked and ugly, culminating in a deadly act of domestic terrorism.
But something else was also present in Charlottesville: the power of collective resolve and mobilized love.
Among the hundreds of people who took to the streets, stood firm in the face of evil, and did not respond in kind were members of the Charlottesville Clergy Collective (CCC). Established after the racially motivated murders in Charleston, the CCC’s mission is “to establish, develop, and promote racial unity within the faith leadership of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Region.”
For more than two years, CCC clergy and lay leaders have met monthly to strengthen friendships across racial lines; to highlight issues of race and social justice in their community; to promote strong relationships of accountability with law enforcement and community government; and to prepare themselves for the times when their united witness is needed.
Their witness was needed on Saturday, and they were ready. As white supremacists shouted words of hatred and violence, people of faith stood resolute in prayer and song. And the Episcopal Church was strong among their number: “Our purpose,” wrote the Virginia Episcopal bishops, “is to bear visible witness to the entirety of the beloved community in which people of all races are equal.”
I also give thanks for all in the Diocese of Washington and the communities we serve who are already working to meet this grotesque display of hatred with organized love. I’m proud to stand among you as we strengthen our resolve to work proactively for racial justice and prepare ourselves to stand firm in love wherever hatred rears its head. We, too, need to be ready for times such as this.
The Spirit of God is at work in our world and will prevail. The evil of racism is real, but it is not stronger than God’s love embodied in the lives of those committed to justice.
There is another important lesson here: there can remain no doubt that symbols carry tremendous power. It was chilling on Saturday to hear white supremacists chant the Nazi slogan, “Blood and Soil,” and to see them carry swastikas.
Likewise, the symbols and monuments of the Confederacy serve as touchstones and rallying sites for racial hatred. We must treat them accordingly. There are, in my mind, only two morally defensible options: either remove Confederate symbols and monuments or contextualize them with the truth of their origins and a broader narrative of our past to include the voices we’ve silenced and the stories we’ve never heard.
We cannot expunge the sin of racism from our past and present, but we can redeem it. And we must.