Immigrant Welcoming Congregations
Shortened Guide to Becoming an Immigrant Welcoming Congregation
- Form a core team. Gather an ad hoc planning group of five to ten people who share your passion for immigrant justice. Your pastor should be consulted before taking this step and should attend the team’s meetings. If your congregation has first or second generation immigrants, at least one should be represented on the team. Plan activities and discussions together that help you discern your dreams and capacity for becoming an Immigrant Welcoming Congregation.
- Learn about root causes of immigration and the evolution of the contemporary immigration system. Deepen your group’s understanding why people migrate, where they migrate from, and how domestic and international laws both historically and contemporarily impact migration. Engaging together in book studies, film discussions, and reviewing devotional guides may help as resources for contextualizing immigration and how you are called to engage.
- Introduce the Immigrant Welcoming Congregation concept to your broader congregation. Designing an Immigrant Welcoming worship service may be a helpful way to bring your learnings and intended mission to your wider congregation for support. Worship is an intentional communal thin spot. It is a place where we prepare ourselves to encounter God. Within the worship experience lives transform, questions reframe, priorities reorder, and purposes realign to God’s purpose through the power of the Holy Spirit. Communities which explore their connections to their immigrant sisters and brothers within the context of worship will naturally form deeper connections with the people and the stories they uncover there.
- Engage with immigrants in your community and their global context. After your core group has discussed, sought out education, and introduced the Immigration Welcoming concept to your congregation, expand toward bringing your congregation into the world of immigrants themselves. Engaging in local outreach and international immersion trips both function to connect the intellectual discernment of your congregation to the realities on the ground.
- Create a covenant. When your congregation has decided that they want to embrace becoming an immigrant welcoming congregation, developing a covenant is the next important step to take. Create a covenant that fits what your church sees as God’s call to them. Each covenant will look unique to that particular congregation. Your covenant should include what your congregation will do to continue that covenantal journey.
- Sponsor a refugee or accompany an asylum seeker. Since the UCC’s merger in 1957, our churches have hosted thousands of refugees and asylum seekers from all over the world. The archives at United Church of Christ National Ministries demonstrate a proud history of sponsorship in almost every conference. In 2023, the opportunities for churches to sponsor have increased exponentially with the evolution of Welcome Corps. No church is too small or too remote to qualify as a sponsor, and there are ample resources to help you accomplish this goal. We strongly advise that you partner with other IWC churches, as well as ecumenical, interfaith, and community groups in your area to welcome a migrant family, as the work is more effectively done with bountiful resources and collaboration. A core group of 5-10 individuals is recommended or required for most sponsorship programs.
- Prayerful action: get involved in a solidarity campaign. It is in the doing of justice that we experience the God of justice walking with us. We are called to action! There are many ways that you can get involved in seeing that justice is done for our immigrant brothers and sisters. Through prayerful action, join a prayer vigil, contact your local legislators, join a sanctuary or immigrant justice movement.
- Connect and register nationally. As we have emphasized elsewhere, it is not recommended nor sustainable to do the work of Immigrant Welcoming alone. Several national resources are available to help you network with others who share your passion, both locally and nationally. Funding and training are also available to ensure your success. Please register your Immigrant Welcoming Church with Refugee and Migration Services and the UCC National Collaborative on Immigration to stay connected to other Immigrant Welcoming Churches and resources across the country.