Reflection on Mission Trips and White Privilege in the Las Fronteras Youth Program

BY: JOCELIN THOMAS, PROGRAM COORDINATOR AT ECM

ECM has partnered with the youth ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of MA to put on Las Fronteras, a high school youth program. This program explores issues of security and hospitality, strangers and neighbors, and privilege and disadvantage, through service learning opportunities in Massachusetts, facilitated conversations, and a trip to the borderlands between Sonora, Mexico and Nogales, Arizona.

The program has involved a cohort of seven youth, meeting for a series of overnight retreats and site visits in preparation for their pilgrimage to the borderlands in August of 2019. The retreats involve learning community organizing skills, exploring spiritual practices, building relationships across the cohort, and learning fundraising methods.

In March, the Las Fronteras cohort gathered in Brockton, MA for their fourth overnight retreat. The first night of the retreat involved rich community building and spiritual exploration. After playing a few trust-building games, the participants engaged in a spectrum discussion activity. This involved a spectrum on the ground from Yes to No. Participants were asked a series of questions about their faith, spirituality, comfort with being identified as a Christian, and more. This activity produced honest and vulnerable discourse about what it means to have faith and what spirituality can look like. We then embarked on a collaging activity around our spiritual autobiographies. We ended the night with an interactive bible study on John 2:13-17, using an activity inspired by the “Theatre of the Oppressed.” In the activity, the youth turn themselves into a statue representing the bible story. We had some interesting impressions of Jesus making a scene in the temple!

Facilitating this group of white, suburban youth as a person of color has been an interesting experience. I feel responsible for making sure each participant takes time to analyze their privilege and what their real reasons for going on this trip are. Is it rooted in a call to justice work? Do they want to learn about who lives in the borderlands between Mexico and the US, who wants to immigrate to the US, and how hard the process to get here is? Do they want to engage with justice work happening here in Massachusetts? Do they want to listen, witness, and learn? Do they just want an experience to add to their resume? Teasing these questions out and guiding people to find their honest reasons for pursuing this trip has raised some tensions. I’ve heard comments that are just a skip and a hop from a white savior complex, and the responsibility I feel to stop that train in its tracks and reroute is overwhelming at times.

In case you’re unfamiliar, here is a helpful explanation I found: “The ‘White Savior Complex’ is a dangerous side effect of many mission trips. We [white people] don’t realize that we love to play “savior” or Santa Claus, which is highly disempowering and even belittling to those being helped... Despite our good intentions, we’re actually promoting dependence rather than empowerment, perpetuating an unhealthy dynamic where the benevolent, rich foreigner is savior and the materially poor person is helpless.” (Michelle C, The Problem(s) With Mission Trips)

This mindset serves no one, even in the ways it may seem to at the very least serve white people. It allows materially privileged people (often white people, but not limited to them) to pat themselves on the back and feel good about the work they did, while not caring about or understanding the cycles they are perpetuating. I highly recommend reading the article in full, as the author outlines several reasons why short-term mission trips are ineffective, and how the only successful ones are the trips focused on listening, witnessing, and inspiring “us to become life-long learners, advocates for justice, better global citizens, and long-term supporters of organizations who are doing empowering, sustainable work.” (Michelle C, The Problem(s) With Mission Trips)

These are the hopes I hold for the youth preparing to journey to Las Fronteras. I hope the trainings we’ve done on storytelling and resonating have prepared them to listen with open ears and an open heart. I hope the exercises we’ve done on unpacking their privilege has prepared them to check their privilege and humble themselves. I hope the exposure we’ve given them of community organizing work happening in Massachusetts has planted seeds that grow into continued engagement with local justice work after their trip. I hope the spiritual practices and discussions we’ve led them through allow them to feel grounded as they prepare to travel, explore, and learn.

Drivers Licenses for All in Massachusetts

Twelve states and the District of Columbia have laws that enable immigrants to obtain a driver’s license with their documentation from another country: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Vermont and Washington. Securing driver’s licenses is a critical step we can take to prevent deportations, as immigrants who are found driving without a license are often arrested and transferred to ICE detention. Widespread racial profiling exacerbates the risk an undocumented immigrant takes each time they need to drive to work, to see a doctor, to transport their kids, or to run an errand. Everyone should be able to drive without fear.

Last week, the NYTimes Editorial Board voiced their support for drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants in New York. Here in Massachusetts, statewide support is building for “An Act Relative to Work and Family Mobility” — the Bill currently in Transportation Committee that when passed will secure licenses for undocumented immigrants.

The Drivers Licenses Coalition (convened by SEIU32 BJ and the Brazilian Worker Center) has produced a fact sheet and summary of the bill.

Click here to download the Fact Sheet on the MA Drivers Licenses Bill!

ECM recently endorsed the bill. For more information, or to endorse the bill, please contact: Dalida Rocha, SEIU 32BJ, DRocha@seiu32bj.org or Natalicia Tracy, Brazilian Worker Center, NTracy@braziliancenter.org

Upcoming Actions to Demonstrate Support for Drivers Licenses for All:

  • April 26-29 Cosecha Gran Caminata - March from Framingham to the State House - https://www.facebook.com/events/273238363580156/

    • The March ends with a rally at the State House on 4/29 in the afternoon

    • To donate food/cash/transportation and other needs to make the March possible, contact Dylan, (617) 694-3803

Lenten Reflections: Will Dickerson, Brockton Interfaith

During Lent,  the Rev. Arrington Chambliss, Executive Director at Episcopal City Mission, had weekly conversations with a leader about the connections between repentance, forgiveness and justice. We are pleased to share excerpts from her conversation with Will Dickerson, the Director of Brockton Interfaith Community (a grantee of ECM’s Burgess Fund) and a pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist tradition. We are grateful for Will’s willingness to share this interview with us.

Arrington: How are you understanding the connection between healing and justice - between repentance, forgiveness and justice?

Will: We just had our racial justice retreat with MCAN (Mass Communities Action Network). We are doing work focused on undoing white supremacy within MCAN. During the conversations, we went through all of this pain and talking about the trauma and hurt of white supremacy, and we opened up all of these pieces, [but] we did not leave space for healing. There is something about having these conversations that opens trauma inside of us – it is steady trauma happening anyways, and reignites and reopens the pain, in our experience of trying to be intentional. We do not have a practice of creating feeling and healing spaces. We go, go, go, go to the next thing and we do not take time to look at ourselves.

In the battlefields, we are fighting a battle for justice. We get cut and hurt in the battle. We are not tending to the wounds and pain. It is starting to show up on me. I have been lamenting because I have been really ill. This illness is hard to diagnose. I think it is deeply connected to stress and trauma. When I find myself stressed, the illness flares up.  What does it mean personally for me to heal and stay healed?

I am deeply interested in building space that is intentional around healing – healing each other and ourselves. If we do not do that, we are not practicing justice.   

What would it take? I am just now starting to think about it.  One of my spiritual gifts is the gift of healing and creating intentional spaces of healing and intentional holy spaces, set aside for the divine or creator’s own special use. I think that part of the process of healing is first and foremost admitting there is something that needs to be healed. There are different injuries and hurts we receive. Some are inflicted because of the structures we sit in – the oppressive house we sit in... another kind of hurt is when someone has injured us. It takes a level of acknowledgement and the personalization of apology or seeing the hurt and having the empathy to see what has happened. And then you have the kind of healing that requires more than an apology… not every time you hurt someone is “sorry” good enough … that is what we are encountering right now.  

This specifically connects to the reparations conversation – no one has really apologized for slavery and there has been no reparations or reconciliation for the pain and injury and hurt that has been caused by slavery.  Reparations is giving an account to slavery’s impact.

In our organizations or lives we all have these budgets and when you buy something you have to bring receipts.  We have to make sure the money spent is accounted for well. In slavery, people want forgiveness but they do not have receipts for the work – they want forgiveness without having to reconcile the account. You cannot have reconciliation without reparation – forgive and forget does not work – the wound cannot be healed until you reconcile it.  Part of the healing process is people getting to the point where we understand that we, as a country, are responsible for healing some of the wounds. You do not just say I am sorry and let it go… you must offer something for what has occurred.

In this country, what does it mean to heal one another and heal with one another?

May Day Actions for International Workers Day

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Re-posted from the May 1st Coalition

May 1st Coalition 2019 Statement

May 1st, 2019 immigrants and workers fight together

 against economic and social injustice and celebrate International Workers Day

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the State Legislature’s leadership and Governor has refused to fix the state’s education foundation budget and end local law enforcement collusion with the Trump deportation machinery. In the last session, the state legislature refused to fix the “Janus” Supreme Court decision whose political motive is to eviscerate public sector unions.

At the federal level Temporary Protective Status (TPS) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is being phased out while Trump and the Congress negotiate billions for a border Apartheid wall.

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is under the firm control of extreme right-wing, anti-union, misogynist, and anti-immigrant justices. Important labor, immigrant, and social rights cases will be decided by SCOTUS in the current term.

Workplace protections and inspections have dramatically decreased causing a tremendous increase in debilitating injures and deaths. Those very federal agencies whose employees’ responsibilities are to protect the common good have been furloughed by the administration.   

Yet Massachusetts educators, students, parents, and community-based organizations are taking dramatic collective action to fix the education foundation budget by May 1st. Unions, labor advocates, and faith-based organizations are demanding that the state legislature and the Governor enact laws against wage theft.

Both TPS and DACA recipients are marching in state capitals and Washington DC for Lawful Permanent Residency. Immigrant communities and their allies are demanding and end to local police collusion with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The May 1st Coalition member organizations are calling upon all workers fighting in many sectors to come together to demonstrate our collective strength and to show the powers that be that we will not, and can cannot be divided. Our unity will not only defeat the corporate agenda and white supremacy but build community intersectional power across movements.

“The importance of bearing witness"

Last month, leaders of a growing immigration accompaniment network in Bristol County gathered at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Fairhaven to share stories and discuss ways to further support their immigrant neighbors. Longtime Bristol County organizer Diana Painter shares her reflections. --Carly Margolis, Organizing Fellow, Episcopal City Mission

“The Importance of Bearing Witness”

BY DIANA PAINTER

I read an article about James Reeb this week, and after hearing a sermon on Dorothea Dix, I am thinking about how UUs have history of bearing social witness. Somewhere I read how one of the reasons the Holocaust happened is because it happened far away from people's view so there weren't enough witnesses who felt connected to the people and so they never stopped it.

At the immigration meeting at my church after the service, I thought one of the most interesting parts was hearing people's stories and the profound impact that witnessing the unfairness of the system had on people who had given rides to immigration court or to an ICE check-in.

We briefly talked about how we could get more people to give rides, even as observers, because once people see the chaos that immigrants are forced to live in as they try to become documented, they can more effectively advocate, or at the very least, comfort people who are going through a struggle that has a process that intentionally removes power and keeps people dependent and in fear.

For example, we talked about how Elizabeth had given a ride, and the woman came out with this infant child seat for her 5-year-old. Luckily, Elizabeth had a booster for a 5-year-old, but the family looked like they had already had a long and stern conversation with the child about how they knew how important a carseat was and that obeying every detail of the law was going to be important, and had prepared the child for a car ride in this ill-fitting seat and to do it without complaint. There was already a high level of anxiety, of course, for getting in a car with someone who doesn't speak your language, and who you have never met before to go to a check-in whose purpose is sometimes unclear.

Elizabeth also told us about how the day took 12 hours because the appointment was at 9am. You have to get to Burlington at 9am, but the receptionist can call your number in line at any time, so they waited there for nearly 5 hours before the woman could get in to see the person she had an appointment with. The driver said the room was full of the most well-behaved children she's ever seen, especially for sitting quietly for hours and hours. Food wasn't allowed in the office and people at the appointments couldn't leave the room, or they would lose their place in line. Because Elizabeth was there, she went to the car and got snacks and water for some of the people in the room with children, and also brought in some coloring activities for the children who were getting restless at hour 6 and 7. She also is pretty sure that because she is White, the staff didn't say anything like they might if one of the people with an appointment had brought in food and shared it.

She has several other stories about how the system was set up to be chaotic, and the stress she could see in the people at the office and the anxiety of the people who she had driven.

In the group, we discussed what other things can we offer the families beyond a ride, like comfort at a time of anxiety and even danger. Having a witness to an injustice may not be the kind of comfort people immediately think of, but I know that it helps if I have someone who also sees me being mistreated and can have my back.

Kelly is working on a guide for drivers, and is going to include some common friendly phrases like "What kind of music do you like?" with some options of radio stations or types of music, and some phrases in Spanish (and hopefully in K’iche’) like "Do you need to use the bathroom?", "Are you hungry?", "Would you like a hug?" - for after the meeting when people can be so stressed out they cry. If there are other words that are helpful for comfort and support, we are also trying to include some of those phrases.

We also discussed how people who don't have access to cars or have money to donate for gasoline can contribute (like making call to Rep. Strauss), and we discussed some snack creation or support in creating some quiet busy bags for kids who are spending so much time at these meetings and waiting in offices. The ability to be a witness should be more inclusive.

I expect the next meeting will also be effective because there are stories from people who are experiencing this chaos and who have the language skills to share their stories, and from the witnesses who can support the experience and understand it in detailed ways that get to deeper issues of the United States’ dysfunctional immigration system.

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: About one hundred people eat dinner around long banquet tables. Caption: a photo from a recent gathering of drivers and riders from the bristol county transportation network.

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: About one hundred people eat dinner around long banquet tables. Caption: a photo from a recent gathering of drivers and riders from the bristol county transportation network.

Report Back: Immigration Workshop at St. Thomas Episcopal Church

BY: THE REV. JOHN BEACH, St. Thomas Episcopal Church

Image Description: A group of about twenty Clergy and lay people sit in chairs and listen to a speaker who stands at the front of the room.

Image Description: A group of about twenty Clergy and lay people sit in chairs and listen to a speaker who stands at the front of the room.

Report on the Immigration Workshop at St. Thomas Episcopal Church

Sponsored by The Greater Taunton Clergy Association

On March 7th, 40 persons from faith community, social services, and other supportive organizations gathered for a day to learn about current immigration policies and standards and to discern how we might best minister to those who are in vulnerable situations.

We enjoyed presentations by Patricia Sobalvarro, Damaris Velasquez and Vilma Galvez (from Agencia ALPHA) who spoke of the forces which cause people to migrate, the evolution of U.S. immigration policy, and the impact immigrants have had in their new homes. This was followed by a conversation led by Dax Crocker (Lead Organizer at Episcopal City Mission) on spiritual and social values which are embodied in our current immigration policy.

The U.S., like most other western countries, has become terrified of the demographic changes which are occurring as the result of large scale migration. As a people, we have become easily manipulated by those who would exploit our fears to achieve political power. It is easy to lose sight of those who are struggling to make a safe home for their family in what is, often, a hostile land.

This workshop provided an opportunity to begin a badly needed conversation on how we can work together to establish a just and compassionate response to growing number of desperate people who are trying to make a home in this country. We considered the many ways in which we are a safer, more prosperous, and more just society because of role played by recent immigrants in our community. Our culture has become richer because of our diversity.  It is my hope and expectation that this workshop will equip church groups and all persons of good faith to work towards a thoughtful and compassionate immigration policy.


The B-PEACE for Jorge Campaign Receives State-wide Award

BY: THE REV. LIZ STEINHAUSER, Senior Director of St. Stephen's Youth Programs
Priest Associate, St. Stephen's Youth Programs

Teen leaders from the B-PEACE for Jorge Campaign and the Pioneer Valley Project - Teen Voices United

Teen leaders from the B-PEACE for Jorge Campaign and the Pioneer Valley Project - Teen Voices United

On Thursday, March 28, the B-PEACE for Jorge Campaign received the prestigious Peace MVP Award from the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence. With the Peace MVP Award, the Mass Coalition recognizes significant and meaningful work by individuals and organizations to stop the scourge of gun violence in Massachusetts. The B-PEACE for Campaign is a project of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and, thanks to a partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts and support from Episcopal City Mission, it has a state-wide reach. Several other youth-led gun violence prevention organizations, including March for Our Lives-Boston, also received awards.

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo presented the award to B-PEACE leaders at Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley during the Mass Coalition’s Annual Event. The Peace MVP Award recognizes B-PEACE’s work over the last year, along with fellow award recipient the Pioneer Valley Project in Springfield, to bring attention to the need for gun manufacturers to play an active role in ending gun violence. The global headquarters of Smith and Wesson is based in Springfield. Weapons manufactured by Smith and Wesson were used in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, along with other significant mass shootings in recent years. Smith and Wesson guns are also the most frequently used weapon in crimes in Chicago, one of the few cities that tracks and makes public such information about gun manufacturers.

B-PEACE leader Ekran Sharif proudly received the award and speakers Anthony Pereira-Pomales and Maoly Lara Pena offered words of thanks and urgency. As Lara Pena said in her comments, “I care about gun violence because when I was six years old, I witnessed an accidental shooting. Three people, including my mom and a pregnant woman, were injured with one bullet. It was horrific to see. This had a huge impact on my life then and now...We think that the corporations that make the guns have to be responsible about where the guns are sold and how they are used. We think that Smith and Wesson should be a leader in helping families like mine who are affected by gun violence.”

More than 25 other B-PEACE leaders were part of the 400-person crowd, who applauded and gave the teens a standing ovation. Among those gathered was Mirna Ramos, mother of Jorge Fuentes, a young man who grew up in the community of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. He was shot and killed at the age of 19 in front of his home in September 2012. The B-PEACE for Jorge Campaign was started in the wake of the grief of this tragedy and strives to honor his memory by addressing the root causes of violence. Following the event, teens presented the actual award to Ms Ramos who wept and hugged the young leaders.

In addition to the award ceremony, the night also included a speech by David Hogg, who graduated last spring from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Hogg has become a national leader on gun violence following the February 2018 shooting at his school, which caused the immediate death of 17 people and which has led more recently to the deaths of two more young people, who died by suicide due, at least in part, to the trauma of the incident. Nikkia Jean-Charles, a B-PEACE leader, participated in a panel with Hogg along with a young leader from the Pioneer Valley Project. They fielded questions from Mass General Hospital physician Dr. Chana Sacks who asked the panelists questions such as why they cared about gun violence, how they took care of themselves in the midst of their activism, and where they saw hope for solutions.

After the event, while taking selfies with Hogg and each other, B-PEACE and Pioneer Valley Project leaders expressed gratitude for the award recognition and a re-commitment to the campaign to engage Smith and Wesson CEO James Debney in productive conversations for solutions to gun violence. To find out more about the B-PEACE for Jorge Campaign’s work or to get involved in their next action, please contact bpeace@ssypboston.org.

Youth Leaders from B PEACE for Jorge and the Pioneer Valley Project Youth Voices United Rally Outside Smith & Wesson

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BY: BAR KOLODNY, Community Safety Organizer & Teen Organizing Program Coordinator, St. Stephen’s Youth Programs

On Friday, March 15th, 2019, high school student leaders from B PEACE for Jorge and the Pioneer Valley Project Youth Voices United and adult allies gathered across the street from Smith & Wesson Gun Manufacturer. This marked one year since youth organizers from these two organizations began the call for Smith & Wesson’s CEO James Debney to be a part of the solution to address the epidemic of gun violence.

After the school shooting on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida,  a mass movement arose across the country. There were student walkouts protesting gun violence, rallies at state capitols calling for gun reform, and more than 50 new  laws passed in 25 states before the end of the year.  Youth organizers from the B-PEACE for Jorge Campaign and the Pioneer Valley Project worked together from Boston to Springfield to organize an action in Massachusetts in which students walked, not to their state capitol, but to the global headquarters of Smith & Wesson in Springfield. Rather than meeting with legislators, young people used the action to ask for a meeting with Smith & Wesson’s CEO James Debney.  Smith & Wesson (now officially known as American Outdoor Brands) is the company that manufactured the weapons used in this Parkland massacre as well as many other mass shootings, including the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and the office park in San Bernadino, California.

Student leaders also drew attention to the fact that gun violence not only includes mass shootings that get intense media attention but also the daily, often ignored, occurrence of gun homicides and injuries in urban areas around the country. They named the implicit racial disparity in national and local responses to various kinds of gun violence.  Students asked for the meeting with CEO Debney to highlight the urgent need for gun manufacturers to take responsibility for the products they create, starting with Smith & Wesson.

In a report published by American Outdoor Brands on February 8, 2019, Smith & Wesson’s holding company wrote to shareholders, “The Company’s reputation as a strong defender of the Second Amendment is not worth risking for a vague goal of improving the company’s reputation among non-customers or special interest groups with an anti-Second Amendment agenda.” The youth leaders and their adult supporters believe that if Smith & Wesson is going to produce guns, then the company needs to be a part of the solution to ending gun violence.

A leader with B PEACE for Jorge and 12th grader at Fenway High School in Boston, Maoly Lara Pena, says, “This is not how the world has to be or should be. We are coming together to re-imagine what might be possible between the people that make the guns and the people who suffer from the guns. We think we can find a better way forward.”

“We’re not here to shut down Smith & Wesson.  We’re here because gun violence is a real crisis in this country.  We’re here because we want to sit down with CEO Debney and talk about how we can work together to end gun violence.  We have some good ideas and we think he does too,” said Maana Daud, a 12th grader in Springfield and a leader with PVP Youth Voices United.

Since the call began there has still been no word from CEO James Debney.

Want to support youth leaders in working to find a collaborative approach to ending gun violence?  

You can call CEO James Debney at 800-331-0852 X6201.

Call your representatives and ask them to call on CEO Debney to meet with youth leaders of B PEACE for Jorge and the Pioneer Valley Project.

Email bpeace@ssypboston.org for more ways to get involved and stay tuned to this blog!

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B-Peace for Jorge is The Anti-Violence Campaign

to address the root causes of gun violence of the

Episcopal Diocese of eastern Massachusetts.

Bpeaceforjorge.net

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Excerpt: Miguel De La Torre's "Burying White Privilege: Resurrecting a Badass Christianity"

We are pleased to share an excerpt from Dr. Miguel De La Torre’s recent book, Burying White Privilege: Resurrecting a Badass Christianity (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2018). Dr. De La Torre will be the keynote speaker at ECM’s Annual Celebration on June 11, 2019.

“My colleague Vincent Harding would often say, ‘I am a citizen of a country that does not yet exist.’ I would add that the country that he envisioned is a just and compassionate country thwarted from becoming reality by a pervasive Christian nationalism that needs the final nail hammered into its coffin before we could ever hope for the resurrection of Christianity. To dream with Vincent Harding of being citizens of a country that we must bring forth is to give meaning to the abeyant and unfulfilled rhetoric concerning ‘liberty and justice for all.’ Our noble 225-year experiment with democracy--stunted by genocidal racism--has the potential of being the balm to a hurting world. Blocking our path to a country based on liberty and justice are the continued attempts of Euro-American Christians to reconcile the message of the prince of peace with a nation whose global and domestic policies have historically been more aligned with the prince of death, who revels in wars and bloodletting.

Rather than being, as Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us, ‘the greatest purveyor of violence in the world,’ this nation has the ability to replace the bullets sold globally with the ballots denied domestically and abroad. We can never be the country we dream of being as long as we continue to worship a militarism that provides more death-causing weapons to the world than any other nation, while supporting an armed force greater than the military might of the next fourteen largest nations combined. We can never be the country we dream of being as long as we continue legalizing and legitimizing voter suppression, dismissing the voices of those whom this country has historically attempted to silence through electoral colleges, gerrymandering, and roll-scrubbing, and demanding photo identification cards while at the same time closing the Department of Motor Vehicles offices in minority neighborhoods.

Let us dream of a new nation by awakening from the nightmare of the nation in which we currently live--a nation that Euro-American Christianity christened as supposedly holy and pleasing to the Lord. Questioning the goodness of the United States can be deplorable and unpatriotic. But whenever patriotism replaces justice, we are in mortal danger of idolatry. If we believe the United States can be a force for good in the world, then the ultimate act of patriotism is to confront and challenge the country’s current grievous race-based sins by demanding it lives up to the rhetoric it avows. True patriotism is proved by the tangible, transformative actions its citizens take to bring forth a justice-based social order. This yet-to-exist country upon which we place our hopes of one day being citizens will never come into being as long as it continues to embrace white Christianity with all of its racist, sexist, and imperialist manifestations. The demise of such a Christianity must be hastened, because no other global worldview has caused more death and destruction. Think of the religious wars, the crusades, and the genocides. The body count at the hands of so-called Christian conquerors outnumbers the grains of sand or the stars in the heavens. So let’s permit the God of this white Christianity to bury itself.”

--Dr. Miguel De La Torre, Burying White Privilege: Resurrecting a Badass Christianity, p. 115-117


Bristol County Feature: Organizing for Correctional Justice

BY: MARLENE POLLOCK, COALITION FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

Bristol County for Correctional Justice (BCCJ) is an ad hoc, grassroots group that formed in 2017 to get elected officials to look into Sheriff Thomas Hodgson’s abusive practices towards incarcerated people in his custody, and questionable financial practices, as head of the Bristol County House of Correction (BCHOC). What started out as community opposition to Hodgson’s plan to send people in his custody to build Trump’s wall, and his decision to have his personnel do ICE’s work in a 287g agreement (Jan. 2017), has built into far-reaching critique of almost every aspect of his administration.  

We found out that his suicide rates were astronomical among the other 12 county jails in Massachusetts; and as we interviewed people who had been in his jail, we found a consistent story of very poor food, a practice of withholding medications for people with seizures, HIV, diabetes, psychological issues, as well as non-existent medical care resulting in serious health consequences, exploitative phone call and canteen prices, and overuse of force and solitary confinement. Defense lawyers also told us of his refusal to abide by the Lunn Decision, a Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court verdict that restricted law enforcement’s holding of people without status who were released from any criminal charges. On further investigation, we researched and found Hodgson’s tight ties with white supremacist groups, like FAIR, and his most recent effort as the lead organizer to build support among sheriffs for Trump’s wall, on BCHOC stationery. In fact, he was at Trump’s side last week when the President vetoed the “no national emergency” bill.

Our strategy has been to call on many state elected officials to investigate him. We’ve written to or met with Attorney General Healey, Secretary Bennett from the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, Department of Corrections Head Turco, Governor Baker, and State Auditor Suzanne Bump. Only Auditor Bump so far has responded. Her office did a performance audit, publishing the results of a two year period (2015-17) this past February.  Not surprisingly, her office found serious flaws in the BCHOC’s finances. One item: the Sheriff had not paid the Commonwealth monies owed to it by ICE to house people detained by them. This figure was almost $350,000! In addition, information from some credit card receipts on taxpayer money spent was missing. Nor had the BCHOC negotiated in recent years with ICE on the costs for housing the people they detained. If these costs have risen, that means that Bristol County taxpayers are subsidizing ICE, rather than ICE paying for what it uses. The bottom line is that we need accountability on these ICE expenditures, including how many people are being detained and held.  

Ways to Get Involved:

BCCJ’s Outreach Committee is available for speaking to interested groups about the conditions in the BCHOC, our critique of Hodgson, and the need for citizens to know facts that are not getting to us as they should. The committee has plans to reach out to many cities and towns in the county to do this education and to ask people to help out in spreading the word.  

Contact Maria Fortes at 508-415-8385 to connect about this, as well as helping to pass the Safe Community Act, a bill that would keep ICE from circumventing the 14th Amendment protections.

BCCJ’s Legislative Committee is planning lobbying trips to our elected state officials offices in southeastern Mass (local or state house) in order to get 3 important bills passed that would greatly improve life for people incarcerated in all the jails and prisons in the state.  

Contact Marlene Pollock at 508-982-8751 for information on how you can help get these important improvements passed.

BCCJ’s Media Committee is looking at a possible cable show, as well as developing a strategy to get the word out to smaller, town-focused papers, and to monitor the op-eds to the Standard Times and other big city papers.  Recently, BCCJ’s op-ed on the Auditor’s Report made all 4 county papers – the Standard Times, the Taunton Gazette, the Fall River Herald, and the Attleboro Sun!  

Contact Eileen Marum at 508-748-1282 for information on this committee.


BCCJ’s Research Committee is looking into ways to get the word out about Hodgson’s known affiliations with white supremacist groups, as well as hoping to get more powerful media into looking at Hodgson in this area as well.  

Contact Julia Keichel at 508-636-3690 for more information on this committee’s activities.

Apoie o Ato Comunidades Seguras

Apoie o Ato Comunidades Seguras

H.3573 (Balser & Miranda) e S.1401 (Eldridge)

Dois anos atrás, nós começamos um movimento: grupos de defensa dos imigrantes e de direitos civis, agências, líderes religiosos e aliados interessados em garantir que, em Massachusetts, ninguém precisa viver com medo e os direitos civis de todos serão respeitados. Nós conseguimos um apoio enorme em Beacon Hill e em todo o Estado. Muitas comunidades também adotaram políticas pró-imigrantes. Agora é hora de colher os frutos do nosso trabalho. Um novo Ato Comunidades Seguras foi apresentado no Legislativo– simplificado, mas com as mesmas medidas necessárias para restaurar a confiança da comunidade na polícia, evitando que policiais se involvam em assuntos immigratórios e protegendo o acesso ao um processo legal:

1. Proíbe perguntar sobre status imigratório: Barra a polícia e funcionários da Corte de perguntarem por status imigratório a não ser que haja uma exigência legal. A polícia estadual já tem uma norma parecida. Muitos imigrantes temem chamar 911 ou falar com a polícia com medo de serem separados de suas famílias – especialmente das crianças. Isso torna as pessoas mais vulneráveis a crimes de violência doméstica e roubo de salário, por exemplo. Não perguntar sobre status imigratório enviaria uma mensagem clara de que na nossa comunidade a polícia protege todas as pessoas.

2. Protege o processo legal: Antes que oficiais de imigração (ICE) interroguem alguém sob custódia, eles têm de obter o consentimento da pessoa em um formulário que explica que estas pessoas têm direito de se recusar a falar com os oficiais e de ter seu próprio advogado presente. Sem esta proteção, as pessoas muitas vezes dão informação ou assinam documentos que prejudicam seus processos na imigração. Quem não tem cidadania, muitas vezes ignora seus direitos, porque a notificação chamada “Miranda” não é exigida no contexto da imigração civil.

3. Limita notificações da polícia para agentes do ICE: Barra a polícia, funcionários da Corte e das cadeias de notificar os agentes do ICE que alguém vai ser liberada. Às vezes, policiais contatam agentes do ICE para tentar manter um imigrante detido mas, se esta pessoa tivesse cidadania, seria solta. Esta medida não impede agentes do ICE de serem notificados sobre a liberação de uma pessoa sendo liberada após cumprir uma sentença criminal.

4. Acaba com os Acordos 287G: Acaba com os contratos que permitem a polícia estadual e municipal agir como se fossem agentes de imigração, as custas do contribuinte. Estes contratos são a forma mais extrema de entendimento com o ICE e, quando uma pessoa passa para a custódia do ICE, antes de ver um juiz, seu processo legal fica prejudicado. Massachusetts é o único Estado da Nova Inglaterra que tem tal acordo. Temos acordo em Bristol, Barnstable, Plymouth e com o Departamento de Correções.

5. Treina e responsabiliza: exige que agências que trabalham aplicando a lei treine seu pessoal e, se houver alguma violação, pode-se fazer reclamar com a agência principal ou com a Procuradoria Geral. O treinamento garante transparência e identifica problemas emergentes.

Massachusetts precisa mandar uma mensagem clara que na nossa comunidade, as leis protegem todos e todo mundo disfruta dos direitos civils.

Perguntas sobre o projeto de lei? Entre em contato com Amy Grunder pelo agrunder@miracoalition.org ou (617) 350-5480, x222

Episcopal Youth Explore Moral Questions of Immigration through Las Fronteras

BY LILY LUO, Lead Trainer, and JOCELIN THOMAS, Programs Coordinator

Las Fronteras is a high school youth program that ECM is launching in partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of MA. The program explores issues of security and hospitality, stranger and neighbor, privilege and disadvantage through service learning opportunities in Massachusetts, facilitated conversations, and a trip to the Nogales borderlands.

ECM and the Diocesan Office of Youth Ministry held the second overnight retreat in January, which doubled as a site visit to Iglesia Nuevo Amanecer in East Boston who is an ECM grantee partner. During this time, they were able to visit with various local community organizations in East Boston which work on immigrant’s rights, workers’ rights, arts education, political organizing, and food access. Many of them operate out of Our Saviour's Lutheran Church where Nuevo Amanecer is also located. Their information can be found below:

While visiting the local arts center and radio station, Zumix, they were also interviewed by a community member of Nuevo Amanecer who hosts a program about East Boston as part of her work with Stand for Democracy. Their interview and photos can be found here on the “Stand for Democracy” facebook page.

In February, the Las Fronteras cohort attended the Diocesan High School Retreat at the Barbara C. Harris Campgrounds in New Hampshire. In addition to the spiritual and recreational activities offered by the retreat, the cohort met to discuss how fundraising is going so far (each youth is asked to raise $2,100 to support the cost of the trip to the borderlands), and hear from alumni who have gone on the trip in the past. In March, we’ll be gathering for next overnight retreat and site visit with  Brockton Interfaith Community (BIC) and Grace Chapel in Brockton, MA who are both ECM grantee partners.

Lenten Reflection from the Reverend Arrington Chambliss

“We are living in a time of deep social and spiritual upheaval. We’re off autopilot, and we’re reassessing everything. I believe that we as a people, and as a nation are in a season of Lent.”  Bob Holmes, Contemplative Monk: Intentional Spirituality Transforms Us

“For evil to triumph, what is necessary is for societies to stop thinking, to stop developing an eye for the absurd as well as the corrupt in language and action, public or private.”   former Archbishop Rowan Williams

These words written by Bob Holmes in the Contemplative Monk, an online resource, spark my curiosity. If he is right and we are in a figurative national Lent, a reassessing of everything that we believe, then how are faith-rooted and spiritual individuals and congregations taking responsibility to reflect on our role in this time of “social and spiritual upheaval”?  And as former Archbishop Rowan Williams names, how are we developing “eyes for the absurd as well as the corrupt in language and action, public and private”?

Lent is a Christian church season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday, this year, Wednesday, March 6th and ends on the Saturday before Easter, Holy Saturday, April 20th.  The word lent means lengthening of days or spring time. The forty days represent the time of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness as he prepared to begin his ministry.

Lent is a season of repentance. Repentance means turning towards God and away from sin. It  is marked by a change in our spiritual and mental attitude and requires self awareness and honesty about what is keeping us distracted or separate from God, ourselves and one another. Lent is a time of focused prayer, self-examination, reflection and fast, in preparation for the coming of Easter, resurrection and new life.

This Lent I have chosen a personal, embodied spiritual practice and fast, however, the preparation for this reflection has led me to choose a public leadership Lenten practice as well. I am thankful for my  colleagues, Hall Kirkham+, Holly Antolini+, Mariama White Hammond+, Liz Steinhauser+ and Mike Stevens who led me to the writing of a contemplative theologian, a philosopher and a former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, and the witness of Memorial for Peace and Justice.  Throughout the six weeks of Lent, I will have a weekly conversation with a spiritual and/or grassroots leader to learn how they are understanding the connection between healing and justice - between repentance, forgiveness and justice.  I want to strengthen my leadership by hearing how others tend to or pull at the root causes of this spiritual and social upheaval which I believe is racism.  And I want to discover, how is the Spirit inspiring them to turn towards God and one another in bringing about healing and justice?

I hope you will share how you and/or your community are approaching these questions of healing and justice. In this newsletter, you can learn how others are preparing the way with action, education, spiritual reflection or deepening relationships.  Learn of brave conversations at St. Andrew’s, Ayer about immigration; spiritual renewal and community building through spiritual practice and storytelling with lay leaders from BIJAN (Boston Immigrant Justice Accompaniment Network); and exciting accompaniment and advocacy in Bristol County; and meet leaders of Misa Aleluya, an exciting Latinx episcopal ministry in Worcester, that is a part of ECM’s Prophetic Listening Project.

A respected colleague, the Reverend Holly Antolini, shared a Facebook post from her admired colleague, the Reverend Jonathan Patrick McGinty, a priest in the diocese of Long Island.

“The philosopher Hannah Arendt[1] has been much quoted lately on the matter of falsehoods in politics but in her treatise The Human Condition, she also described the central role of forgiveness in political life. ‘Without being forgiven,’ she wrote, ‘released from the consequences of what we have done, our capacity would … be confined to one single deed from which we could never recover.’ People would remain ‘victims of consequence.’ The act of forgiving, in her view, is the necessary counterpart to the promises people make to one another—on which society is founded—because it allows the spontaneous possibility of moving beyond the pain of a broken promise. But that also means holding onto the knowledge that the promise was broken in the first place.”

Arendt’s wisdom connects to conversations I have had with those who have taken pilgrimages to the Equal Justice Initiative National Memorial for Peace and Justice which opened to the public on April 26, 2018. The Memorial is “the nation’s first dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence”.  I am grateful for the leadership of Bryan Stevenson and many others as they envisioned such an important memorial that places before us a history foundational to our country’s spiritual and social upheaval. Pastor Jim Wallis underscores this fact with his claim that “America's problem with race has deep roots, with the country's foundation tied to the near extermination of one race of people and the enslavement of another. Racism is truly our nation's original sin.  It's time we right this unacceptable wrong."[2]   

Our “nation’s spiritual and social upheaval” must be examined in the light of the deep roots of American racism.  The former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ book review, "A Nervous Breakdown in the Body Politic”,  examining what enabled the rise of evil in Hitler’s Germany, offers helpful caution and encouragement for this reflection.

“For evil to triumph, what is necessary is for societies to stop thinking, to stop developing an eye for the absurd as well as the corrupt in language and action, public or private.”[3]

Williams further explains the need for deepening awareness of how we collude in “small or not-so-small acts of petty malice, unthinking prejudice.”  He encourages us to awaken to what we “tolerate or ignore or underestimate that opens the way for disaster, the ways in which we are at least half-consciously complicit.”   

The conventional wisdom holds that “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”, in Edmund Burke’s familiar phrase; but this is at best a half-truth. Studying the biography of a moral monster triumphantly unleashed on the political and international stage points us to another perspective, no less important.

What is necessary for the triumph of evil is that the ground should have been thoroughly prepared by countless small or not-so-small acts of petty malice, unthinking prejudice and collusion. Burke’s axiom, though it represents a powerful challenge to apathy, risks crediting evil with too much of a life of its own: out there, there are evil agencies, hostile to “us”, and we (good men and women) must mobilise to resist.

No doubt; but mobilising intelligently demands being willing to ask what habits and assumptions, as well as what chances and conditions, have made possible the risk of evil triumphing. And that leads us into deep waters, to a recognition of how what we tolerate or ignore or underestimate opens the way for disaster, the ways in which we are at least half-consciously complicit. If this is not to be the silly we-are-all-guilty response that has rightly been so much mocked, nor an absolution for the direct agents of great horrors, it needs a careful and unsparing scrutiny of the processes by which cultures become corruptible, vulnerable to the agendas of damaged and obsessional individuals.

A network of wise colleagues and the insight of Bob Holmes, Hannah Arendt and former Archbishop Rowan Williams prepare the way for my Holy Lent.  I enter this Lenten season of repentance, with the prayer, Holy God, turn me even more fully and honestly towards where You are already at work healing and creating whole, equitable and just communities.  

In these next forty days, I will learn about healing that is already taking root in communities like Brockton Interfaith led by Will Dickerson and the Mission Institute led by Diane D’Souza and Katie Caprnst and until recently Myriam Hernandez Jennings and the healing practice of spiritual reflection among BIJAN leaders accompanying immigrant neighbors and siblings.

If you have a suggestion of a community or leader who inspires your understanding of racial healing and justice, please email me their name and contact information at arrington@episcopalcitymission.org. I am thankful for how my relationships with you, call me into the deeper waters of new life.

With Gratitude and Blessings,

The Reverend Arrington Chambliss

[1] Hannah Arendt is a German Jewish philosopher born in 1906. She was forced to flee Germany in the 1930s as Hitler came to power. She is best known for her major works, including “The Human Condition,” “On Violence,” “Truth and Politics,” “The Origins of Totalitarianism” and especially MsAS “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil,” which grew out of her coverage of the trial of the Nazi Adolf Eichmann for The New Yorker.

[2] Wallis, J. 2016 “America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America”, Brazos Press.

[3] Rowan Williams is described in the NewStatesman America is “an Anglican prelate, theologian and poet, who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 2002 to 2012. He writes on books for the New Statesman.” Williams, R. May 1, 2016.New AmericanStatesman (UK) “A Nervous Breakdown for the Body Politic”

Conversation with Rachael Rollins - March 19

“We are no longer going to criminalize poverty, mental illness, and substance use disorder. We are going to end the wealth and racial disparities in our current incarceration rates.”

— Rachael Rollins, Suffolk County DA

Tuesday, March 19, 7-9PM, Temple Israel of Boston

Please join us to meet DA Rollins in conversation about reforming criminal justice with Rahsaan Hall, Director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. This event is led by Temple Israel and joined by partners ECM, The Center for Teen Empowerment, The Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action, Temple Beth Zion Brookline, Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, and St. Ignatius - Chestnut Hill, MA. RSVP to Tali Puterman at tputerman@tisrael.org

Rachael Rollins at TI.PNG

Apoye el Safe Communities Act

Apoye el Safe Communities Act

H.3573 (Balser & Miranda) y S.1401 (Eldridge)

Hace dos años, lanzamos un movimiento de inmigrantes, defensores de derechos civiles, proveedores de servicios, líderes religiosos y aliados determinados a que en Massachusetts, nadie tenga que vivir en temor, y que se respeten los derechos civiles de todos. Cultivamos un nivel de apoyo sin precedentes en la Legislatura y a través del estado. Pasamos políticas pro-inmigrantes en docenas de comunidades. Ahora hay que completar nuestra labor. Se ha introducido una nueva versión del Safe Communities Act –más simple pero con las mismas disposiciones para restaurar confianza comunitaria en la policía, dejando claro que no se involucren en asuntos de inmigración, y proteger el debido proceso legal para todos:

1. No más preguntas sobre el status migratorio: Prohíbe que los oficiales de la ley y de la corte hagan preguntas sobre el status migratorio, a menos que la ley lo exija. La Policía del Estado tiene una política similar. Muchos inmigrantes temen si llaman a 911 o hablan con la policía, los separarán de su familia, especialmente de sus hijos; esto los deja vulnerables a la violencia doméstica, el robo de salarios y otros abusos. Queremos dejar claro que en Massachusetts, la policía nos protege a todos.

2. Protege el debido proceso legal: Antes de que Inmigración y Control de Aduanas (ICE) pueda hablar con alguien bajo custodia local, la policía tendrá que obtener el consentimiento del individuo afectado, usando un formulario que explique su derecho a rehusarse o a tener un abogado presente. Sin estas protecciones, es común que las personas hagan declaraciones o firmen documentos que les perjudican. Como en el contexto civil, no se requieren estas advertencias, muchas veces los inmigrantes no saben que tienen esos derechos.

3. Limita las notificaciones a ICE: Impide que la policía y los funcionarios judiciales y de las cárceles notifiquen a ICE que alguien está a punto de ser liberado. A veces, los oficiales llaman a ICE para tratar de evitar que un inmigrante salga en libertad cuando ya no pueden retenerlo, aunque un ciudadano saldría libre. Aún podrían notificar a ICE si una persona está cumpliendo su sentencia penal.

4. No más acuerdos 287 (g): Cancela los contratos con ICE que permiten que oficiales de la ley actúen como agentes de inmigración, a expensas del estado. Estos contratos son una forma extrema de involucramiento con ICE, y cuando evitan que las personas acudan a los tribunales, les niegan el debido proceso legal. Massachusetts es el único estado en Nueva Inglaterra con acuerdos 287(g), con cuatro: en los condados de Bristol, Barnstable y Plymouth, y en el Departamento de Correcciones.

5. Proporciona importante capacitación y responsabilidad: Requiere que las agencias afectadas entrenen a su personal sobre esta ley, y permite que se presenten quejas ante la agencia relevante o la Fiscalía General si se alega que haya habido una violación. Estas disposiciones ayudarían a garantizar la transparencia y abordar los problemas a medida que surjan.

Es hora de que Massachusetts envíe un mensaje claro de que en nuestro estado, la policía nos protege a todos, y todos disfrutan de derechos civiles.

¿Tiene preguntas? Contacte a Laura Rótolo, lrotolo@aclum.org o 617.482.3170 ext. 311.

FACT SHEET: Safe Communities Act

Re-posted from MIRA Coalition

Support the Safe Communities Act

H.3573 (Balser & Miranda) & S.1401 (Eldridge)

Two years ago, we launched a movement: immigrant advocates, civil rights groups, service providers, faith leaders and allies committed to ensuring that in Massachusetts, no one has to live in fear, and everyone’s civil rights will be respected. We built unprecedented support on Beacon Hill and across our Commonwealth. Dozens of communities also adopted local pro-immigrant policies.

Now it’s time to bring our work to fruition. A new Safe Communities Act is before the Legislature – streamlined but with the same core provisions to restore community trust in police by avoiding entanglement in immigration matters, and protect due process for all:

1. No questions about immigration status: Bars law enforcement and court personnel from asking people about their status unless required by law. The State Police already have a similar policy. Many immigrants fear that calling 911 or speaking to police will lead to separation from family members – especially children –making them more vulnerable to domestic abuse, wage theft and other crimes. This provision would send a strong message that in our Commonwealth, police protect us all.

2. Protects due process: Before Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) questions someone in local custody, requires police to obtain their consent using a form that explains their right to decline an interview or have their own attorney present. Without these protections, people often make statements or sign documents jeopardizing their immigration cases. Non-citizens often unaware of these rights, because “Miranda” warnings are not required in the civil immigration context.

3. Limits notifications to ICE: Bars police, court officers and jail officials from notifying ICE that someone is about to be released. Sometimes law enforcement will call ICE to try to keep an immigrant from going free when they can no longer hold them, even though a citizen would go free. The bill would still allow notifications to ICE if a person is being released after serving a criminal sentence.

4. No more 287(g) agreements: Ends contracts with ICE that allow state and county personnel to act as federal immigration agents, at state taxpayers’ expense. Such contracts are the most extreme form of entanglement with ICE, and when they shift people into ICE custody before they can go to court, they undermine due process. Massachusetts is the only state in New England to have such agreements, and we have four: with Bristol, Barnstable Plymouth counties, and the Department of Corrections.

5. Provides crucial training and accountability: Requires law enforcement agencies to train their personnel about this law, and if there is an alleged violation, people can file a complaint with the relevant agency or the Attorney General. These provisions would help ensure transparency and tackle problems as they arise.

It’s time for Massachusetts to send a clear message that in our Commonwealth, law enforcement protects us all, and everyone enjoys civil rights.

Policy questions? Contact Amy Grunder at agrunder@miracoalition.org or (617) 350-5480, x222

March Update: Immigration Actions with Parish of the Epiphany, Winchester

jericho walk.png

Immigration Justice Ministry

Check the PoE website for updates: https://3crowns.org/page-18221

Questions? Contact Roz Nazzaro rosalyn02478@yahoo.com or Pam Chester  pgachester@gmail.com

  • Join the Burlington Immigration Justice Cluster, planning Jericho walks at the Burlington ICE office, and publicizing actions by other groups

    • Sign up: bit.ly/burlingtoncluster

  • Join the Bedford interfaith sanctuary coalition, providing volunteers to ensure their guest has a 24-7 presence in the church building

    • Contact Judy Cotton for details about two upcoming volunteer trainings  at judicotton@gmail.com

  • Attend the monthly prayer vigils at the South Bay ICE detention center in Boston

    • Next prayer vigil: Sunday, March 31st, at 2 pm

  • Sign up for updates at http://www.mcan-pico.org/campaigns/current/immigration-justice  Partner with BIJAN in raising money for the free phone line they provide to South Bay ICE detainees—exploring closer ties to publicize volunteer opportunities for bond fund donations, accompaniment to court dates, transportation after release, temporary housing

    • Sign up or donate at bit.ly/joinBIJAN

  • Attend the March 24 International Institute of New England fundraiser at St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Winchester, featuring stories from young immigrants and the immigration cantata composed by the Winchester Unitarian Society music director


Immigration Accompaniment Network Takes Off in Bristol County

Over a year ago, the members of the Unitarian Universalist church in Fairhaven began to meet and discuss the policies of the current administration on immigration. They were looking for ways to do something to assist immigrants because one of the core beliefs of Unitarian Universalism is the inherent worth and dignity of every human being. At the urging of their minister, Rev. Jordinn Nelson Long, the group participated in a webinar offered by the American Friends Service Committee on accompaniment. Reverend Jordinn had been approached by BIJAN (Boston Immigration Justice Accompaniment Justice Network) about speaking to a local immigrant in custody in Bristol County.

In September, Episcopal City Mission (ECM) reached out to our church and several other local churches to become more involved in immigration justice. ECM staff invited members of the churches and various community organizations working on immigration issues in the Greater New Bedford area.

A few weeks later, members of the UU Fairhaven, Kelly Ochoa and Laura Gardner met with Brian Pastori of the Community Economic and Development Center (CEDC) in New Bedford and Dax Crocker of ECM. The goal of the meeting was to explore ways in which the members could develop a way to aid the CEDC in supporting the increasing number of immigrants in New Bedford. Laura and Kelly were able to set up a network of drivers who were willing to drive immigrants to appointments in Boston, Burlington and Worcester. Previously, the CEDC had a few drivers who had taken immigrants to appointments. BIJAN has an extensive network of people who accompany immigrants to court in the Boston area. The numbers in New Bedford are not as large but the need still exists. To date, 29 rides have been provided by various members of the network created by Kelly and Laura. Rides have been given to Worcester, Burlington and Boston.

On Sunday, March 3rd, drivers and riders gathered at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in New Bedford for a celebration of the growing network. Community members who have received rides expressed gratitude by preparing a meal for those who have offered rides.

--Kelly Ochoa, UU Society of Fairhaven, and Brittany Jenney, St. Peter’s Episcopal

Interview: "Prophetic Listening" at Misa Aleluya

ECM’s ten-month program, “Prophetic Listening” works with parishes to deepen the parish’s sense of relational culture, begin or join a community justice initiative in their community, and increase the number of people engaged in the work of community engagement. In the program, teams made up of parishioners and wider community members learn leadership practices that enable them to listen and respond to how God is calling them to love boldly and do justice.

This month we are lifting up the work of Misa Aleluya, a Latinx congregation that worships at All Saints Worcester, through an interview with the facilitators who are leading the congregation through the PLP program. Padre Jose Reyes is the Missioner for Latino/Hispanic Ministries in the Diocese of Western MA and the Lead Pastor of Misa Aleluya. Deacon Ema Rosero is a Deacon in the Diocese of Massachusetts and has ample experience in nurturing hispanic ministries in our church. Savannah Haugh is a former life together intern who served with Padre Edwin Johnson at St. Mary’s in Dorchester where they supported a vibrant Latinx ministry. ECM interviewed Savannah, Padre Jose, and Deacon Ema this week.

ECM: When did Misa Aleluya begin? And, how would you describe the congregation?

JR: Misa began in September 2016 and, since then, we have grown from an average Sunday attendance of 5 to 35 parishioners. We are a congregation that tries to embody God's love in the world: love for ourselves as children of God, which inspires us to step up as leaders in our community; love for each other, seeking the face of Christ in everyone we meet even if they look, sound and think differently from us;  and loving our community by being a congregation that listens and is present in our neighborhood as an influence and an example of compassion and grace.

ECM: What motivated you to join the Prophetic Listening Program?

JR: In the past two and a half years we have been focusing internally; on growing the church and raising up new leaders. However, the work of the Church is in the community. While we will continue to work on growing spiritually and as a congregation, we are now at a point where there is energy to begin focusing on our wider community as well and we have parishioners that want to begin work with our neighborhood. Prophetic Listening is helping us to listen to the voices in our community, in our church and in ourselves to help discern what God is calling us to do and be as a congregation.

ECM: What inspires you about Misa Aleluya?

ER: What inspires me about the work I've I done at Misa Aleluya is the call of the Spirit to serve which I always respond with love, enthusiasm and commitment to attend to the desires of our Latino communities when they so eagerly embark in programs, projects, and new adventures in which they deepen their faith journey, explore, and realize God’s action and mission offered to each one of us in our communities and to the world.

SH: I feel so inspired by so much at Misa Aleluya! The community at Misa Aleluya is perhaps what inspires, and rejuvenates me, the most, though. People are so incredibly invested in each other, in supporting each other, in sharing stories with each other, in feeding each other and looking after each other. It is inspiring for me to see a group of people who so reflexively and wholeheartedly come together to nourish spirits and bodies. When I visited for the first time, people were very welcoming, taking the time to come introduce themselves and give a kiss on the cheek during and after the service. The community shared a plentiful lunch, and after a sharing circle led by Ema and I, it was hard to get people out the door. We just kept hanging around and chatting as José tried to herd us out. At one point, I complimented one of the community members on her scarf, saying I loved the colors, and she promptly took it off and gave it to me. I protested, and so she gave me the opportunity to learn from her not just how to give freely and spontaneously, but also the importance of receiving gifts. Misa Aleluya inspires me because it is a place where gifts of all kinds flow freely.

ECM: What do you hope comes from the work at Misa Aleluya?

SH: I'm really hoping that the folks at Misa Aleluya, at the end of our work together, can see for themselves what I see already in them: a group of absolutely incredible organizers and community builders who are poised to make a lasting impact on their neighborhood, and on each other and those they meet. They are already organizers, already change-makers, already invested wholeheartedly --because of their own experiences and the experiences of those they love-- in the kind of deep structural change that our society so desperately needs. And they already have the tools to do it. I hope that the community feels the confidence in themselves, their vision, and their abilities by the end of this time that I already see in them! And I hope (and intend) to continue learning and growing from them in the process, and hope they will come to see themselves as the teachers they already are!

ER: My hope for this partnership is for ECM not only to rejoice in what has been accomplished so far and as seen in Misa Aleluya, but also to give serious consideration to the importance of inviting Latinos and Latinas to the design team when programs such as Prophetic Listening are being envisioned and created with them in mind. We all can learn so much from each other!


Immigrants' Day at the State House 2019

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REPOSTED FROM MIRA - Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition

Dear Safe Communities supporters:

This Monday, March 4, is a very big day. Hundreds of us will be at the State House for Immigrants’ Day, the biggest lobby day of the year for immigrants and refugees and allies, organized by MIRA Coalition. We will have a speaking program at 11am that will highlight the Safe Communities Act and breakout sessions at 12:30 and 1:15 pm that offer an excellent opportunity to promote the bill and discuss it with our legislators.

Our keynote speaker will be Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, and we’ll also have Senate President Karen Spilka, Safe Communities Act Senate sponsor Sen. Jamie Eldridge, and ACLU Massachusetts Executive Director Carol Rose, among others. But the most important part of Immigrants’ Day is lobbying, which MIRA has stepped up significantly for this year.

After the speaking program, we have a breakout session in the Great Hall at 12:30pm focused on the Safe Communities Act, with Sen. Eldridge as well as House sponsors Rep. Ruth Balser and Liz Miranda and as many additional legislators as we can persuade to come join us. At 1:15pm, we’ll also have regional meetings: Merrimack Valley (Room 109), Essex County (Room 511), Worcester/Central Mass. (House Members Lounge), Metrowest (Room 222), and Southern Mass. (Room 350).

Please join us! We want to seize this opportunity to make a big impact for the Safe Communities Act. Register here so we know you’re coming, and please call and/or email your legislators to ask them to join one of the breakout sessions, or else meet with you one-on-one earlier or later in the day. You can share the SCA factsheet and the event flyer with them (which shows dozens of event cosponsors). We also have some tips on how to speak to your legislators (English and Spanish).

We look forward to seeing you there!

Amy Grunder
MIRA Director of Legislative Affairs

More Info on the Safe Communities Act

Read & Share the Fact Sheets in English and Spanish!