Welcoming the Stranger

A thank you goes to Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service for hosting an Advocacy Day this past Wednesday. This Service helped the Kittamaqundi Community Church Seeking Refuge Focus Group to welcome and support an Afghan family over a year ago, a strong relationship that continues.

After a morning training, I joined a Lutheran Services member and a congregant of a nearby synagogue to visit the offices of three Maryland Congressman and meet with staffers. Admittedly, I was hoping to team up with others who had done these kind of visits. Alas, none of us had and we all had to step up to contribute to the conversations. Having to do so helped us all to gain confidence and find a voice as we related stories and made our “big asks.” It was a sweltering day in downtown D.C., especially in my black collar shirt.

My momentary discomfort has been nothing when I consider the refugees who have to brave resettlement. I think of unwelcome offices, foreboding paperwork, impossible odds. I think of the extreme heat of border crossings. I consider the violence of places like the Red Zone of La Esperanza, Guatemala. Barb Lorraine spoke to us in worship today at Kittamaqundi Community Church about UPAVIM (United for a Better Life) and their phenomenal work to empower women surrounded by gang violence and extortion.

Additionally, a member of the KC Community offered a rendition of “Home of the Brave” (Karen Drucker, JD Martin, and David Roth) reminding us that “when you come for my neighbor, you come for me.” Another KC member was able to share about her experience participating in a protest this summer. She stood with others on the Gorman Overpass of I-95 highlighting the plight of separated families.

This month at Kittamaqundi Community Church, we are considering James’ instruction to be “doers of the word,” knowing that our doing comes in a wide variety of forms as an expression of faith . We acknowledge that our lack of doing leads to neglect in this world. Our doing is an expression of the unmerited grace and love that we receive from God. Through our “doing,” we participate in the building up of Beloved Community. We tend to and stand in solidarity with those on life’s Jericho Road–both those we happen to encounter in our everyday, and those we must go out of our convenient way to know. 

UPAVIM kids

UPAVIM schoolchildren.

Rallying in D.C.

United to Love, August 12

A sturdy group from the Kittamaqundi Community Church traveled to downtown D.C. Sunday.  There we gathered alongside people of faith on the one year anniversary of the events of Charlottesville.  As white supremacists prepared to demonstrate in Layfayette Square across from the White House, we joined 1,500 people on the lawn in front of the Capitol for the United to Love Rally hosted by The Baltimore-Washington Conference of The United Methodist Church. Several speakers noted the Rally’s location next to the National Museum of the American Indian as they decried our nation’s ongoing legacy of systemic racial oppression.

We stood in solidarity and love, then made our way to Freedom Plaza, where hundreds were gathering to march. Next we walked to  Layfayette Square just as members of Black Lives Matter were marching south toward the Square. At one point, several police vans u-turned in front of us. We later found out that they contained the 24 or so members of the Alt Right.

Before our arrival, Baltimore-Washington Conference Bishop shared the following convicting sermon on the Mall for the United to Love Rally.

Bishop Latrelle Easterling’s Sharing

“God desires an offering of the heart, an outward expression of an inward transformation to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. God desires action, the doing and not just the uttering. God desires our righteous conduct. God desires that we live our faith and activate our spirituality for the the common good. God desires a heart that lives for others and not self.”

We are here because we believe in love. unity the sacredness of all creation. We are here because we are united to love as people of faith, as people of all faiths, we need to heed the teachings of Father Richard Rohr and meet one other at our ‘deepest experience of God.’ As we meet then in this holy circle, we must be willing to live our faith out loud, unashamedly claim the moral center of our traditions and practice justice, practice mercy, practice humility, practice peace, practice civility, practice inclusivity, practice the truth that all men and women are created equal…We who believe in freedom cannot rest.”

 

 

Preparing to Rally

Rev. Sekou and The Seal Breakers’ Tiny Desk Concert 

 

I met Rev. Sekou ten years ago on a Midwest faith bus tour. I had been hired to drive a van to follow a charter bus of pastors and prophets housing the likes of Walter Wink and Jesse Jackson. He wouldn’t remember me, but with a Tiny Concert like this, you’ll likely find Rev. Sekou as unforgettable as I do. Rev. Sekou’s Southern flare and social fury have my soul stirred on what was to be a sleepy Friday night. The litany of black lives of “Bury Me” and Rev. Sekou’s remembrance of Charlottesville haunts us in expectation of August 12–when Unite the Right will rally in Washington, D.C.

Rev S4

I don’t know if Rev. Sekou will be in D.C. that day, but a number of people of faith will be gathering. Consider joining the United to Love Rally August 12 

“The United to Love Rally will stand as an alternative to the hatred, but it will also be much more as people of faith claim and share God’s love, peace and justice. We feel compelled to raise a prophetic voice challenging the climate of distrust, distortion of truth and fear, shifting the conversation to our common future.”

United to Love