Refugee Response Team: New Name, Same Welcoming Mission

Refugee Response Team: New Name, Same Welcoming Mission

“…I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.”
Matthew 25:35

Parishes and individuals throughout the Diocese have a long history of stepping up to welcome the stranger as displaced people from around the world arrive in this area. Beginning last August, after the President’s announcement of the end of the war in Afghanistan, the influx of refugees has reached record numbers. In response to this increased urgent need for assistance, what had been an informal sharing of knowledge and resources among those congregations with established refugee ministries served as the basis for the creation of the Afghan Refugee Response Team (ARRT) with Bishop Mariann then urging parishes and individuals to participate in responding to this humanitarian crisis.

As co-chairs of ARRT, the Rev. Anne Derse, deacon at St. John’s, Norwood and Hazel Monae, then the diocesan Missioner for Equity and Justice, provided the opportunity for parishes to gather regularly on Zoom, learn from those who had been supporting refugees for years, hear about the current situation and need, build partnerships, and take action to begin graciously ‘Welcoming the Stranger’.

Our Diocesan Strategic Plan calls us to “partner in ministries of equity and justice for greater impact in our communities” and “strengthen our collective witness…and shared resources to meet the needs of our regions.” Over the last ten months, parishes have done exactly that, cultivating collaboration among parishes in the Diocese, across faith communities, and with other aid organizations in the work to support arriving refugees. Based on the needs in the DMV, parishes have:

  • sponsored newly arriving families,
  • furnished and set up apartments,
  • provided housing,
  • fed those in hotels,
  • gathered needed supplies such as coats, gift cards, socks, toys, and
  • advocated for immigration reform.

Over thirty parishes and countless individuals have been generously involved with the efforts.

The capabilities developed and information gathered through the initial efforts of the ARRT apply to all arriving refugees and this spring, the ARRT community entered the next phase of work, renaming itself to the Refugee Response Team (RRT) to better reflect the wider scope of its mission.

The RRT community will continue to serve as a resource for parishes called to this ministry, so they have a place to start. To carry on the work, the RRT will remain a place for accessing and sharing information, provide ongoing support for parishes involved in the ministry, and carry out the vision of ‘Welcoming the Stranger’.

If you or the people of your parish feel called to this ministry, please don’t hesitate to email me.

Nancy Stockbridge
Interim Chair, Refugee Response Team

Three Parish Partnership Settles Afghan Refugee Family

Three Parish Partnership Settles Afghan Refugee Family

Volunteers help furnish an apartment for an Afghan refugee family

Some of the volunteers from All Souls, DC, St. John’s, Lafayette Square and St. Mary’s, Arlington, helping to furnish an apartment for an Afghan refugee family

After a month of preparation and hard work, a cross-city and cross diocese partnership welcomed an Afghan refugee family on February 16th. All Souls and St. John’s Lafayette Square from the Diocese of Washington and St. Mary’s in Arlington from the Diocese of Virginia joined together to settle an Afghan father and mother and their three small children into a three-bedroom apartment the churches have rented and furnished for the family.

While the parishes all have past experience supporting refugees, leadership in each parish liked the idea of a partnership approach, given the amount of ongoing support the family will require–from language, education, and self-development resources to health and human services, to legal, financial, and other assistance–to be successful.

Embry Howell, who leads the work at All Souls and sought out partners, said “All Souls had successfully partnered with two DC parishes in 2016 to support an Afghan family, so we wanted to replicate that success. We were delighted to find such amazing and willing partners in St. John’s and St. Mary’s.”

Dana Martin, Senior Warden at St. Mary’s agreed, saying, “We liked the idea of adding this to the other ministries in our parish. It’s remarkable how well the partnership is working. Back in my corporate days I’d call it synergy. Now I think it’s better to call it the Holy Spirit.”

Gay and Bob Pasley, longtime stalwarts at St. John’s whose college friendship with Embry led to the parishes’ connection agreed. “We’re so happy to share all we’ve learned over the years. Each parish brings a lot to the table.” Jessica Sanchez of the same parish added, “St. John’s had a whole storage locker stuffed with items we were able to use to furnish the apartment.”

Patty Hammond of St. Mary’s shared that it’s been fun to see how every member of the “Tri Parish Refugee Support Circle” as it’s called, has brought their own skills to the table, hers being her former life as a teacher and her connection to Episcopal Migration Ministries.

Interim Rector at All Souls Parish, the Rev. Dr. Julianne Buenting, stated her support for the project this way: “I’m just as thrilled about how this encourages our own spiritual transformation at All Souls as I am about our following the biblical imperative to welcome the stranger. The Holy Family was once a refugee family. We need to remember that.”