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.”