We are facing an escalating humanitarian crisis as a growing number of children flee escalating violence in Central America. So far in FY 2014 alone 57,000 children have sought refuge at our borders. It is from dire circumstances that a child chooses to migrate thousands of miles. As people of faith we have an ethical obligation to care for the most vulnerable among us. The root causes of these changing migration patterns are extreme poverty, violence, and rising homicide rates in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, from which most of the children are arriving.
A Pastoral Letter on Child Refugees from the National Leaders of the United Church of Christ
The National Officers of the United Church of Christ and the Council of Conference Ministers — the leaders of the denomination’s regional conferences — shared a pastoral letter addressing the tens of thousands of young refugees fleeing Central and Latin America and seeking safety in the United States. In a unified voice, UCC leaders declared their support for these children that are leaving their homelands out of fear. This is a unique moment that tests the church’s commitment for justice and peace. Read the full pastoral letter.
Compassion and Prayers for Unaccompanied Migrant Children
Join people of faith in praying and acting to protect these children! The United Church of Christ is urging members and congregations to take a moment during church services to pray for and stand in silent witness with thousands of young refugees fleeing violence and conflict in Central America and the people and communities throughout the country working to help them.
There are several things you and your congregation can do:
Pray -Your church can pray for the protection of the children, who have travelled hundreds of miles to escape the violence in their home countries. We are asking for prayers of support for:
- The children and their families. For the violence and poverty that forces people to leave their homes and loved ones. For the broken hearts of parents seperated from their children. For a better world where all God's children can find safety.
- The UCC-affiliated Bethany Children’s Home in Womelsdorf, Penn., which has so far helped more than 60 unaccompanied minors through its Helping Hands program, and plans to help hundreds more in the coming months.
- Yuma United Church of Christ in Yuma, Ariz., which provides food, clothing, water, diapers and other supplies to women and children left by U.S. Border Patrol in public parking lots to fend for themselves.
- The Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ, which is serving as a donation collection center and working to distribute supplies to its local congregations.
- The Southern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ that is supporting the work of the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium, which has so far collected and distributed tens of thousands of items to young refugees.
- United Church of the Valley United Church of Christ in Murrieta, Calif., whose members brought a peaceful presence to the city’s angry protests, and continue to advocate for these children by working with their congressional representatives.
Act - Both the Senate and House have introduced emergency funding bills to respond to the unaccompanied children fleeing violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Calls to your Senators and Representative are urgently needed today. Tell them to REJECT rollbacks to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and to INCREASE funding for refugee resettlement. Visit tiny.cc/ProtectKids for more info and to take action.
Give - Your financial contribution is multiplied by joining with others to increase the capacity of the UCC to address humanitarian needs and to shape the future. You are helping to provide food, water, safe places, a listening pastoral ear, religious services, and legal assistance. Your gifts are already making their way to the UCC Southwest Conference and Church World Service to provide immediate and sustained releif. We thank you for your generosity.
Make a secure on-line donation noting "Unaccompanied Child Refugees" in the comments section. Gifts may also be made at your local UCC congregation noting support for “Unaccompanied Child Refugees". Gifts should then be sent through your Conference office on to Wider Church Ministries. Donations may also be made out and sent directly to Wider Church Ministries, Financial Services - 6th Floor, 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115.
More of the UCC Response
- UCC response to crisis of unaccompanied minors from Central America - the UCC Immigration Task Force offers an overview of the crisis and ways for congregations to engage.
- Worth the Risk? Consider the factors behind the surge of unaccompanied children. - July 9, 2014. Derek Duncan, Our Global Ministries Associate for Global Advocacy and Education, reflects on the growing number of unaccompanied children crossing our southern border. He explores why these children are coming to the U.S., what is the faith community is doing to respond, and what comes next.
- UCC coordinated response moves quickly to fund assistance for displaced children
- UCC Congregations respond:
• A Resolution on Becoming an Immigrant Welcoming Church (General Synod 31, 2017)
• A Call for a More Humane U.S. Immigration Policy: End Migrant Deaths; Support Immigrant Communities (General Synod 26, 2007)
• Border Justice Issues: A Challenge for the 21st Century Church (General Synod 22, 1999)
• Affirming The Dignity And Self-Worth Of Immigrants (General Synod 20, 1995)
The first Sunday in May has been designated Immigrant Rights Sunday within the United Church of Christ. Justice and Witness Ministries and Wider Church Ministries are urging congregations to lift up immigrants on this day: to learn about their concerns, honor their contributions to our country and communities, hear their pain, pray for their well-being, and listen to hear where God is leading us regarding issues of immigration.
Welcoming the stranger among us as native born is part of our faith tradition, for we too were once strangers (Exodus 22:21, Leviticus 19:33, Deuteronomy 10:17-19). However, too often the immigrants among us are rejected, treated as outcasts and placed on the margins of society.
May 1st is international Labor Day and has become a day in which we recognize the value and labor of immigrants in the U.S. On the first Sunday in May, congregations are encouraged to include stories about immigrants in their worship service and explore avenues to advocate for immigrant justice. Below are the most current issues this year on immigration with potential ways to get involved to limit deportations and unnecessary detention of immigrants.
Building Sanctuary For All... All of Us
"Shouldn’t our sanctuaries offer this same kind of Sanctuary...to anyone? Wouldn’t we want this grace, and do we not call upon this kind of love every Sunday?" Read more of Rev. Julian DeShazier's reflection on Immigrants Rights Sunday and intersectionality.
- Explore our worship worship and prayer resources and start planning your congregations Immigrant Rights Sunday observances.
*If your congregation would like to get more involved on immigrants' rights advocacy and organizing efforts please contact Rev. Noel Andersen - mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rev. Noel Andersen serves as UCC & CWS Grassroots Coordinator for Immigrants' Rights in Washington, D.C.
In addition to the worship resources you find below, we have prepared and compiled sources Immigrant Rights Sunday which are useful anytime. They include sermons and reflections, prayers, orders of worship, and other worship elements.
- Biblical References to Immigration: A comprehensive listing of all Bible references to immigrants and refugees.
- Faith and Immigration (with Reflection Questions): A theological exploration of immigration and overview of the UCC’s General Synod’s thinking on this issue.
- And Who Do We Say We Are? sermon by Rev. Loey Powell, Aisnworth UCC, Portland OR
- "An Immigrant Rights Sunday sermon by Rev. Chuck Currie, First Congregational, Salem, Oregon
- Hearts that Long for Justice By Bishop Samuel Ruiz of San Cristobal de Las Casas in Chiapas
- God’s Extravagant Welcome: Extending Citizenship by the Rev. John Thomas
- Our Response to Fear by the Rev. Daniel Romero
Theology of Immigration
Theological Reflections on Immigration by Daniel G. Groody, C.S.C. including:
- Dying to Live: Theology, Migration and the Human Journey
- Crossing the Divide: Foundations of a Theology of Migration and Refugees
- Dying to Live: Theology, Migration, and the Human Journey
The Rev. Alice Hunt: Love thy immigrant, column in Chicago Tribune
All hymns are from the New Century Hymnal
Tu has venido a la orilla (You have come down to the Lakeshore), #173
De Colores (Sing of Colors), #402
We are Marching in the Light of God, #526
We Are Not Our Own, #564
Lead Us From Death to Life, #581
Through all the world a hungry Christ, # 587