On Saturday, Oct. 5, designated the National Day of Action for Dignity and Respect, United Church of Christ congregations will be among hundreds of communities throughout the country advocating for comprehensive immigration reform and respect for immigrant families. Marches, vigils, news conferences, and artistic performances are just some of the ways advocates will make their voices heard, pushing Congress to pass legislation that will keep immigrant families together and offer a pathway to citizenship.
"With time slipping away on the legislative calendar, there is all the more reason for a bold cry from people of faith to urge Congress to end the budget stalemate and return to the business of governing and moving our nation forward – immigration reform is a central element of that agenda," said Sandy Sorensen, director of the UCC's Washington, D.C., office. "The lives of millions of women, men and children, the livelihood of communities, and the core values of our society are at stake."
Sojourners UCC in Charlottesville, Va., will host a performance of 'Border Crossings: Stories of Welcome and Exclusion' by the Presence Center for Applied Theater Arts. The performance will facilitate the sharing of immigrant experiences, including stories of welcome, exclusion, culture-shock, and gratitude. Attendees are invited to share their stories and discuss what it means to be an immigrant, and reflect on the shared memories, emotions, and expectations. The performance will also include a visual portrayal of America's long history of both welcoming and excluding immigrants.
"Unless we are Native Americans, we all have immigration stories, be it our own or one found deep within our family history," said the church's website. "[This event] is a local expression of support for the National Day of Dignity and Respect."
Scott Nicholson, a missionary with Global Ministries, the shared ministry of the UCC's Wider Church Ministries and the (Christian Church) Disciples of Christ, will speak at a rally Oct. 5 in Billings, Mont. Nicholson is a full-time volunteer for Hogar de Esperanza y Paz (Home of Hope and Peace), a community center in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. He will be one of several speakers at the rally and will share his first-hand experiences of working with the people of the border community and the impact that U.S. immigration and economic policies have on them. On Oct. 6, Nicholson will again share his experiences during morning worship services at Billings' First Congregational Church UCC, and during an afternoon program sponsored by church's Board of Outreach and the Montana Organizing Project.
In New York City, about 60 members of Judson Memorial Church UCC will participate in a march across the Brooklyn Bridge in recognition of the National Day of Action for Dignity and Respect. The New Hampshire Conference of the UCC's Immigration Working Group has signed on as a local endorser of the event through The Action Network's website, and members of the group will attend a vigil at a Catholic church in Manchester. The Rev. Noel Anderson, Church World Service grassroots coordinator for immigrant rights and member of the UCC's Collaborative on Immigration, is encouraging activists to fast on Oct. 5 through the Interfaith Immigration Coalition's Fast Action for Immigration Reform campaign, and to make calls to members of Congress urging them to act.
"We will demand respect for our hard work and for the many contributions we make to the nation's culture, economy, communities, and faith," Anderson said. "We will march for common-sense immigration reform with legalization that leads to citizenship, legal immigration rules that promote family unity and protect worker rights, an end to the destruction of our families through deportations, and a halt to the rush towards massive, wasteful spending on unneeded border militarization and for-profit immigrant detention prisons."