by EDOW | Sep 15, 2022
Since April of 2022, thousands of migrants have arrived in Washington, D.C. on buses sent from Texas and Arizona. In May, St. Thomas’ Parish in Dupont Circle joined the many churches, non-profits, and community groups who have provided a warm welcome and much needed food, clothing, and basic necessities. This help has been–and continues to be–critical, as people are arriving after 30 hours on a bus, which comes after an arduous journey to the United States. It was in the weekly welcome of these migrants that we started to hear of other necessities, and a desire to pray together. Many of the people we welcome have not had a chance to worship in a church in many weeks, if not months.
So St. Thomas’ started a Spanish language Misa del Inmigrante on the days we provide welcome. This worship is an opportunity to give thanks for a safe arrival, pray for family and friends left behind, and remember those injured or dead from the journey to the United States. It is a time to remember the love of Christ through the journey, and pray for a blessing for the new journey in the United States.
As most members of St. Thomas’ do not speak Spanish, we invited the Latino congregations in the diocese to participate. What joy and partnership this has brought to us all!
All of the Latino congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of Wasihngton are participating in this Misa del Inmigrante, and have also shared in the warm welcome through distribution of food, supplies, clothing, and radical welcome. All are welcome to join St. Thomas’ Parish in this ministry of welcome, and consider how they may provide a welcome in their own ministry context. Reach out to the Rev. Carol Coonrad for more information.
The Rev. Lisa Saunders Ahuja, Rector, St. Thomas’ Parish, Dupont Circle
by Allen Fitzpatrick | Sep 14, 2022
Please join us for an evening of prayer and reflection with our Diocesan Latino clergy and lay leaders. Many of our neighbors continue to bear the burden of stalled comprehensive immigration reform including refugees, asylum seekers, those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designations and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries, the undocumented and detained. We pray that all may have the support to participate fully in our society.
by EDOW | Jul 7, 2022
In April, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas announced that his administration would charter buses to “bring migrants released by federal agents north to Washington….[to] be dropped at the doorstep of federal lawmakers.” In response, several faith communities in DC have stepped up to serve as spaces of respite following the long bus rides, working alongside not-for-profits that provide medical care, food, housing, transportation, and bus and plane tickets to the migrants next location. Over the month of June, the Church of the Epiphany, with the help of some of our sister Episcopal congregations, has been host to over 250 migrants.
Our guests arrive via private transport from Union Station to the church in need of immediate access to a bathroom and WiFi. The first arrivals each day tend to appear between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m. They are infants, children, elderly, men, women–all weary and calmly preparing for the next leg of their journey. Some speak Spanish, but other languages we hear are Portuguese, French, even English. We don’t always know how many guests we will host each time, so flexibility has been a necessity.
In the beginning, we provided what was asked for: toys for the kids, bathrooms, food to eat, directions to the store. It was an easy way to be of service, a form of outreach our parish has undertaken in response to calls for help any number of times over the years.
It has long been the custom of Epiphany to host weekday services. One day recently, I was preparing to pray with some regular visitors who entered the church with the expectation of a noonday service, but the sanctuary was filled with our migrant neighbors. It seemed natural to invite all present to pray together, but knowing that many of our guests were tired, and in the process of transitioning to the next stop, I did not think many would respond to the invitation.
I left the sanctuary to grab the readings for the day and my Spanish language Book of Common Prayer. Upon returning to the sanctuary, I was surprised to find that 50 migrants had gathered, silenced the children, and were anxiously awaiting the opportunity to pray.
Seeing how many were gathered I hesitated, wondering if my limited Spanish language knowledge would be adequate to meet the need, yet a sense of purpose and certainty settled upon me. With the help of a Spanish-speaking volunteer from Washington National Cathedral we prayed together, offered a homily, and praised God.
As a space of respite throughout the week, Epiphany provides an opportunity to walk the labyrinth, participate in worship, and hear music. Yet, it hadn’t occurred to us that one thing that would be welcomed by the travelers is corporate worship.
Despite the language barrier, and the fatigue from traveling on a bus for 25-33 hours, we had a spirited and beautiful worship experience. People were so thankful to be able to pray the Lord’s Prayer together. All the voices together, Spanish, English, rang throughout the sanctuary. Everyone walked away filled with the spirit, you could see all moving with a bit more joy in their step.
We did nothing fancy or extraordinary AND the Holy Spirit made her presence known to us. That day, we started as strangers and departed as siblings under God.
The Rev. Glenna Huber
Rector, Church of the Epiphany, DC
by EDOW | Jun 23, 2022
“…I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.”
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.
Interim Chair, Refugee Response Team
by Allen Fitzpatrick | May 19, 2022
Please join the Sanctuary Ministry in a discussion led by Tatiana Laborde, Managing Director, SAMU First Response, on the efforts of DC community organizations to welcome immigrants arriving in DC from Texas. Given this migration crisis, SAMU has identified a timely and much-needed opportunity to activate their 40 year experience in humanitarian response, stakeholder engagement, and systems analysis by proposing to establish an emergency welcome respite center.