Today marks the recognition and celebration of 150 years of faithful and courageous mission and ministry of our Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. We serve with wholehearted inclusiveness a very demographically diverse population. And we are known as a diocese concerned and committed to serving, with God’s help, those whose lives are in need or at great risk.
The diocese has been at the forefront of social issues that demand the witness of the Gospel. We know the harsh realities of life for many in Nassau, Suffolk, Brooklyn and Queens, where our priests, deacons and church members show and share God’s Way of Love for all people.
We have been and continue to stand ready when needed to be the prophetic, even heroic, voices of the church in the world.
Today, as we reflect on our 150-year history, images and stories from the press and the internet about current struggles seem all too familiar.
Within the diocese we are going to study the concerns raised by the #MeToo movement.
And, the ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious diversities here keep us sensitive to the complex immigration issues that impact all of us.
We tirelessly respond and provide aid and assistance and advocacy.
We do this through our parishes, our cooperation with community agencies, and the very energetic ministry of our Vicar for Community Justice.
Today, as we celebrate our past, we again are confronted with an urgent need to act on behalf of sisters and brothers being marginalized by others, even governments.
As you know, there is an “exodus” of people fleeing parts of Latin America and approaching the southern border of our country. They are not coming into New York harbor, rather they are traveling to the southern border, to seek asylum from violence and economic, religious and social discrimination.
They are coming, as many of our own families have, seeking safer and better lives for themselves and their children.
But they are being vilified and disparaged by a nationalist administration here, which is now permitting armed, civilian militia to join the thousands of military personnel massing at the border to prevent them from entry to request asylum.
What is the Gospel thing to do? What would Jesus do?
We know what Jesus once did in the face of self-righteous, and misguided leadership. In the eighth chapter of John’s Gospel we learn that Christ put himself between a woman and those who were about to stone that woman—those massed in blindness to hurl stones.
Today, I am asking you to support and to join me, and other members of our international Episcopal Church as well as our ecumenical and multi-faith partners in going together to the border. Travel with me and stand, literally stand, between these vulnerable people and the people with guns—to keep the vulnerable safe, to shield them, to escort them as they seek asylum and provide for them the dignity and care of brothers and sisters in Christ.
I am grateful that the head of the Episcopal Church, our Presiding Bishop, Michael B. Curry, has come and participated in our convocation of clergy, and will spend time with our youth, and will also address this convention. His presence and his own calls to be intentional partners in “The Jesus Movement” further strengthen our resolve to be faithful, even when there are potential risks.
So, I ask for your prayerful discernment, your prayers and encouragement as details are set in place and as arrangements are made to courageously be the church, as we assist those in the midst of exodus.
We are the church. We open our hearts, our homes, our neighborhoods and towns. We open our wallets. We open our churches to all. We welcome the stranger.
We will be working with Episcopal Church departments and well-known organizations, such as New Sanctuary Coalition, so that our efforts will be as coordinated and effective as possible in these potentially dangerous circumstances. Here are some of the plans that the New Sanctuary Coalition is organizing. (Further details will be provided by the diocese’s department of communication ministry as they become known.)
• Calling people to the border to set up a safe encampment for 40 days. At the Tijuana, Mexico, border there are already 2,000 people waiting to be processed for asylum. Other border towns may also need assistance.
• Training people to help asylum seekers get their documents in order before they approach the U.S. This training may begin in New York.
• Faith leaders will personally walk asylum seekers across the border and wait for them as they are processed.
• Training additional people to accompany the asylum seekers through the process once they are in the U.S., wherever they end up.
This is a “faith-led” response to the Exodus, a non-violent action of solidarity to help people seek asylum.
There is no set date for going to the border yet; it may be around the first week of December.
The New Sanctuary Coalition website has more information.
For official Diocese of Long Island information about this Exodus response, please contact:
***Mother Marie Tatro: firstname.lastname@example.org, (516) 698-9554
*** Denise Fillion: email@example.com, (631) 942-9460