The Corner

Focus On This Mystery

The following is front-page lead in the current (February 2004) issue of

Dominion, the monthly newspaper of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island.

I am going to transcribe it without addition, subtraction or alteration.

“The 137th Convention of the Diocese of Long Island, with the strong support

of Bishop Walker, designated the Second Sunday of Lent, March 7, as

Immigration Sunday throughout the diocese. Parishes are asked to focus

worship, preaching, and adult and children’s education on the concerns and

experience of immigrants.

“Most Americans, with the exception of Native Americans, come from immigrant

stock. Our forbears were born someplace other than the United States. This

experience provides a rich story of lives of faith within every

congregation. It also provides an opportunity to celebrate our diversity as

a church.

“Many members of our Diocese are recent immigrants, struggling to build

family lives under the pressure that comes with being recently arrived. For

some it involves learning a language. For all it means learning about new

institutions such as schools, health care, employment policies as well as

living in a new culture. This would be enough of a reason for a parish to

celebrate and recall the immigrant experience.

“Many people worshiping in the parishes of the diocese each week are

undocumented. In the US at the moment many people are coming to work to

assist in building the country who are not being granted legal status and

are therefore living as undocumented peoples. America needs these workers

in our homes, in our restaurants, caring for our gardens, growing and

processing our food. For these individuals immigration holds particular

challenges. People are fearful of being identified and deported. People

are working at jobs where there are no legal protections as to working

conditions or wages. People have little access to health care. People are

separated from their families and usually are sending money home to support

family while working very low-paying jobs.

“We as a nation are also facing a time when many of those working will

retire. Increased immigration seems the only way that we will be able to

have enough workers to maintain our way of life.

“Our Diocese and our national church have gone on record to insist that the

US provide legal status for all workers in the country along with legal

protections on the job and access to permanent residency and citizenship.

“In the midst of this, Long Island has seen the growth of ugly

anti-immigrant groups who are actively resisting immigrants and have

committed acts of violence against immigrants. Our experience of living in

the midst of this xenophobia requires us to speak out and to stand up.

“The Second Sunday of Lent is intended to recall to us the biblical

imperative to do justly to the stranger living and working in our midst. On

Thursday, February 12, Canon Juan Oliver has invited the clergy to a Clergy

Day at Mercer to prepare for Immigration Sunday. It will include a look at

the Sunday Propers with this theme in mind, suggestions about guest speakers

and developing speakers from within the congregation, updates on the status

of immigration legislation and access to immigration services for members of

the Diocese. Lunch will be served. The day will close with evensong and a

workshop for lay leaders over a light dinner.

“We, the members of Christ’s Church must support and protect the stranger in

our midst. People will ‘come from the east and west and from the north and

south and sit at the table in the Kingdom of God.’ Let us prepare to focus

on this mystery in our worship March 7th.”