An Immigrant Ministry
By Will Rico, Published on May 20, 2016
Would you support an Immigrant Ministry at First Parish?
At the First Parish Annual Meeting on Sunday, Si Si Goneconto and I presented our idea for creating an Immigrant Ministry at the church.
Why have an Immigrant Ministry? In a sense, we are all part of the immigrant story, either directly or via the experiences of our parents, grandparents or an earlier generation. How do those stories compare to the hateful rhetoric we hear from politicians who openly refer to Hispanic immigrants as criminals? How do you feel about the media demagoguing Muslim refugees as terrorists?
Those trends trouble me and are one of my motivations for joining the Needham Area Immigration Justice Task Force a year-and-a-half ago and for proposing an Immigrant Ministry today.
As part of the task force, I work on the issue of family detention. Areas in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have spiraled into extreme violence over the past several years leading to a large influx of asylum seekers. A tipping point of violence hit the region in 2009 when our government backed a coup in Honduras.
When women and children flee this violence, they often come north to Texas, make a petition for asylum and are thrown in prison. Last May, I visited a prison for women and children in Karnes City, Texas, and it moved me to deepen my work on their behalf.
One of the families I met with was a mother and her ten-year-old son from Honduras. He was walking to his Catechism class one day, when a gang pulled him aside and forced him to watch as they killed another boy in front of him. They told him that the same would happen to him if he didn’t join the gang. The Mom immediately made plans to flee and that’s how they wound up in a Texas prison run by a for-profit corporation.
The task force is putting together a plan to help these asylum seekers (mainly from Central American) as well as refugees (from Syria and elsewhere in the world) who come to Massachusetts. We also have programs to work on local legislation and welcome immigrants in our town.
There are five members & friends of First Parish on the task force, but there is an even greater opportunity for us to participate in social action as a church and share First Parish’s love and energy with the immigrant community.
Here are some of things that an Immigrant Ministry could help with:
- Gathering clothes or household items
- Driving someone to a pharmacy
- Helping a family enroll a child in school
- Connecting with job or housing opportunities
- Teaching English
- Making a friend
In addition to connecting with immigrants, an Immigrant Ministry can help us connect us to other UUs and the national Unitarian Universalist Society. A few of the area UUs working on immigrant justice are:
- Arlington Street Church in Boston
- First Church in Belmont
- First Parish in Cambridge
- First Parish in Bedford
- First Parish in Weston
As Unitarian Universalists we share as our first principle a belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. With an Immigrant Ministry we can extend that belief to communities that need it while at the same time enriching ourselves.
I’d love to hear your feelings, opinions, questions and ideas about what we’re proposing. I will arrive early for the roll & stroll on Sunday, May 22, 2016. If this is a topic your curious about or you’d like to get involved, let’s talk.