We all long for community, safety, and belonging l Worship
Last updated 10/16/2019 at 2:27pm
“When my great grandfather and great grandmother arrived in America from Sweden, they were just 18 years old. With no other choice, they left their home country with a small suitcase and a dream.”
At a speaking event I recently led, a member of the audience spoke up to briefly share part of his ancestors’ immigration story. The reality is most of us have an “immigration story.” For many of us, this may be a relative three or more generations ago that came to this country.
For some of us, our immigration experience may be more recent. In our current time, there is a debate over who is welcome or not welcome in our country. This is both a challenging and complicated issue with many layers that cannot be sorted out in one article.
The Bible reminds us, “When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 19:33-34 NRSV).”
I encourage people of faith and all people to begin having thoughtful dialogue on this issue.
In August 2019 the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Churchwide Assembly, the highest legislative authority of the ELCA, took a stand to become a sanctuary denomination. This means the ELCA publicly declares that walking alongside immigrants and refugees is a matter of faith.
“As a church, we have advocated for stopping the detention of children and families for decades. We have spoken out against family separation, sought a pathway to citizenship for community members who have lived in the U.S. for many years, and have taken steps to address the root causes of migration in a way that honors the humanity in people who must flee” (https://www.elca.org/SanctuaryChurch).
Although the ELCA as a church declared to become a sanctuary denomination, congregations are invited to discern what it means to be a sanctuary denomination in their own context. The ELCA document points out that, “Being a sanctuary denomination does not call for any person, congregation or synod to engage in any illegal actions.” Additionally, “Being a sanctuary denomination is about loving our neighbors.”
Sanctuary for a congregation may mean hosting an English as a Second Language (ESL) class; joining public demonstrations against the detention of children and families; opening the doors of our faith community to a neighbor facing deportation.
These are only examples; each congregation is encouraged to thoughtfully decide ways to get involved.
In reality, we all long for community, safety, and belonging.
Can we embrace an immigrant or refugee as our neighbor? Walking alongside our neighbors who have escaped challenging situations is a matter of faith and community.