A collective call for justice and simple decency for immigrant neighbors fueled three days of prayer, action and advocacy in Washington, D.C., with 22 United Church of Christ Conference Ministers making more than 40 visits to senators and congressional representatives Sept 24-26.
They offered scores of letters and messages from people in their churches, shared human stories of hardship in their communities and presented a united and constant appeal for change. This video by UCC videographer Bob Lormor and this written reflection by the Rev. Shana Johnson, conference minister of the Illinois South Conference UCC, captures the essence of that ministry.
"This trip to Washington, D.C., has been absolutely transforming. Too often in the church, we stay away from having difficult conversations for fear of offending some, upsetting some or creating a divide in our faith communities. Yet, the fear of such things can cause us to become silent, complacent and ineffective in taking seriously what it means to follow Jesus. Instead of considering the ethical, moral and spiritual implications of situations which have a claim on our hearts, minds and spirits and are crying out to us as believers, we stake our claim in legalistic views and arguments, camping out in our political affiliations. For many in the Illinois South Conference of the UCC, immigration in our country is one of those situations.
I invited our churches to write letters that I would deliver to Congress. I received typed letters and handwritten letters, letters from pastors and lay people, letters from children and adults (ages 7 to 98), and letters from entire congregations. The messages are thoughtful and profound as well as direct and pragmatic.
They wanted to make sure those in leadership clearly understand the way in which we are treating immigrants, refugees and families should not be a political issue or a bargaining chip in election cycles. It is a moral, ethical, Christ-imperative issue. We are NOT loving our neighbor in the ways Christ calls us to love. We can do better. We must do better. Christ demands this of us."
As Michigan Conference Minister Campbell Lovett said, "Hopefully, our work on behalf of more humane treatment will bear fruit for those who are most in need."