St. Martin’s and refugees – living Christian values

This week we’re hearing a lot about refugees. On Wednesday, September 21, Texas Governor Greg Abbott threatened to dump refugee services in Texas, citing safety fears.

The House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church, meeting in Detroit, issued A Word to the Church for the World, available in English and Spanish, with video. The bishops “decry angry political rhetoric which rages while fissures widen within society along racial, economic, educational, religious, cultural and generational lines” and they “refuse to look away as poverty, cruelty and war force families to become migrants enduring statelessness and demonization.” They remind us that “Every member of the church has been ‘called for a time such as this.’ (Esther 4:14)”

emm-migrationEpiscopal Migration Ministries (EMM), the refugee resettlementprogram of The Episcopal Church, issued a September 21 statement responding to Texas’ actions. EMM works to build a foundation for individuals forced from home and country, so that they may thrive in communities across the United States. EMM collaborates with the Episcopal Public Policy Network, part of the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations in Washington, DC, on public policy advocacy for refugees and migrants. EMM collaborates with with local partner agencies in 26 Episcopal dioceses and 22 states to welcome those fleeing persecution. EMM stands ready to work with partner refugee service providers to help transition Texas’ refugee administration to nonprofit administrators to make sure refugee families are not at risk. Read EMM’s statement on Texas actions here.

Thursday, September 22, all Episcopal bishops in all six dioceses in Texas responded to Gov. Abbott’s action regarding resettlement and aid to refugee in a joint statement. Our bishops addressed this Texas issue and gave a strong message for state leaders about fear-based policy making. They pledged to work for a solution to the crisis that Texas faces because of Gov. Abbott’s proposed actions.

Also on Thursday, three videos of people from our church were published. Refugee Services of Texas (RST) came to St. Martin’s on September 8, and we helped them by sharing stories of why helping refugees was important. Videos from Outreach Committee member Becky Snell, our rector, the Rev. Scot McComas, and Communications Director Susan Kleinwechter were published as part of RST’s North Texas Giving Day campaign on social media. In sharing beliefs and encouragement for helping refugees, we helped RST in Fort Worth pass two giving goals and reach for a third goal of $18,000. You can watch these three videos below.

The plight of refugees is real. Refugees are forced from their home, and then their country. In our settled lives, we struggle to appreciate that refugees have been uprooted because they fled civil war and terrorism and persecution. By the time they arrive here, they have faced danger and displacement for years. They have been investigated by multiple agencies in our federal government and connected to refugee service agencies. They seek a safe place to live, a job, and a chance in life for their children.

Helping refugees isn’t a new idea for Episcopalians. For more than a century, The Episcopal Church has been engaged in the ministry of welcoming immigrants and refugees. Episcopalians have a deep, biblical commitment to aid the stranger in our midst. Working toward meaningful social change, and working with people whose voices are unheard, working for justice and equity, is a part of what we do. It’s even part of our baptismal covenant, where we promise to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.”

So for our growing Episcopal church in the suburban Keller/Southlake area of North Texas to get involved in helping refugees is not a cultural leap, even amidst cultural backlash against refugees and immigrants that has swept across America. The Episcopal Church compassionately upholds the dignity of every person.

At St. Martin’s we practice radical hospitality. We believe in the worth and dignity of every person, and that diversity is a gift. This genuine love for others, and its outward focus, goes beyond welcome and acceptance of people who come to our church. This love is in the act of extending community to people unserved by our church. We are the heart, hands and feet of Christ. Hanging out on the edges and margins is transformation, for us and for our society.

Come, and worship and serve with us. Grow your faith here. Share  your gifts here. Let us together be the church in the world.

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