A prayer vigil for Immigration and Peace was held in the Chapel of the Conference Center on Wednesday, March 27. Members of the Bishop’s Appointive Cabinet (Conference Superintendents) and other Conference leaders and staff heard a reflection from Bishop Julius Calvin Trimble, shared the Sacrament of Holy Communion, and shared prayers for some indigenous and immigrant communities.
Hear Naomi Sea Young Wittstruck, Leadership Development Minister for Social Justice and Mission, and Alejandro Alfaro-Santiz talk about the Conference Center Prayer Vigil for Immigration and Peace and immigration concerns beyond.
The vigil, modeled after a Migrant Sunday service at the Southside Presbyterian Church of Tucson, Arizona, included a responsive call to worship in which the gathered community confessed, “Crossing borders we encounter God.” They prayed, “We are a journeying people who move not only from place to place, but from sorrow to joy, from despair to hope, from alienation to solidarity, from resentment to love. God, in our journeying, we confess that too often returned from the path that you have put before us and go on our own way; we turn from you, return from our neighbors. Lord, forgive us especially for turning away from our neighbors to the south and from those who crossed the desert risking death in order to find life. Turn us towards you and to those who suffer, so that we might work for a day when no one dies forgotten or unknown. Remind us that you are our true North, you are our compass leading the way to an abundant life.”
In his reflections, Bishop Trimble observed, “People on the move are special in the eyes of God.” Referring to Matthew 25 the Bishop noted, “We’re called to love and care for the stranger. Remember, Jesus move from place to place.” He added, “In Christ the human race is one before God. When we welcome our immigrant neighbors we see the face of Christ.”
Bishop Trimble referenced his blog post entitled, “A More Excellent Way.” In it he wrote, “United Methodists (along with many other faith communities) have worked for and waited for the day that government policies, as well as polices of the church, reflect the sensitivity of the needs of undocumented immigrants. Because of the recent leadership of eight United States senators, we see a framework for immigration reform that will allow for a historical moment to “do justice and love kindness” in 2013.
We affirm our 2008 Church Resolution that included the statement, “the 2008 General Conference join with MARCHA (Methodists Associated to Represent the Cause of Hispanic/Latino Americans) and urge the United States Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that makes family unity, students being able to get an education at an affordable rate, fair just treatment of laborers, and a reasonable path toward citizenship a priority.” As we join others to advocate for comprehensive reform we are daily in ministry with families (often of mixed status) that desperately want to remain together and have access to education, work and citizenship.
As Christians, we can do no less than welcome and love the immigrant in our midst, because we ourselves were once strangers in a foreign land.”
People worshipping in the Chapel were invited to offer prayers of their own. Rev. Brian Milford, Superintendent of the Southwest District remembered the Chukese Micronesian community, people who live in rural, mostly Anglo areas, and struggle to live often below the poverty line. He said that Chukese people from seven states will gather to celebrate faith and devotion at a United Methodist Church in Kansas City on Easter Sunday.
Rev. Lilian Gallo Seagren, Superintendent of the Southeast District, said, “There are Filipinos in Iowa and a Filipino Regional UMC in Iowa is possible. We begin our prayer with the chorus of that hymn: ‘Praise to God, fount of love, praise from morn till the set of sun; praise at home, praise in church; praise to God everywhere on earth.’” “We lift up to you,” she continued, “the people of the land of our birth and the church that brought us and nurtured us in Christian faith, wisdom, love and truth. We are grateful for the gift of being able to cross the waters that divide where we were and where are now, the Fareast and the Americas. We pray that the very same passion we have over there will continue to grow while we are here.
In remembering the great gift of our salvation in Christ, we join our people pleading for you to feed those who are crying for food. We plead for you to join those whose hearts desire to be freed from oppression. We plead for you to generously pour your healing balm upon those who are suffering from poverty related ailments. We plead for you to pour your shalom upon your divided church. We are confident that nothing separate us from your great love and we come to plead that you come join us in removing everything that is blurring our vision of your presence in our midst both near and far.”
Naomi Sea Young Wittstruck, Leadership Development Minister for Social Justice and Mission, prayed for the students who will be affected by the Dream Act and by Deferred Action status.
Rev. Denis Tevis, Superintendent of the North Central District, prayed, “Nosotros Dios, we are thankful that peoples who speak many different languages have heard and responded to your call to New Life (nueva vida) in Jesus Christ.”
Rev. Dave Crow, Superintendent for the East Central District, offered a prayer for African Immigrant communities - "a long way from home; not their choice to roam; together but alone; in trial faith has grown...Lord hear their heart cries; in them let joy arise; until all are blest."
Rev. David Weesner prayed for Native American peoples in an indigenous language. His request was “Great God, we pray to you for all our brothers and sisters.”
Celebrating the Sacrament of Holy Communion, Bishop Trimble invited all present to know that there is a place for everyone in God’s community. In music, following Communion, the hopeful invitation, expressed by all asked, “Gather Us In.”
The Holy Week Wednesday Chapel service concluded with all departing “going forth in silence.”