Thursday, February 07, 2013

Immigration Advocacy Workshop @ Saint Peter's Church

As part of my yearlong vicarage project at Saint Peter's Church, I've been blessed to greatly grow in my understanding of congregation-based advocacy, specifically around the important issue of immigration reform.

Long before I began my vicarage, there had been interest at Saint Peter's in strengthening the parish's social justice ministries, but once we began exploring how to do so this past fall, it quickly became apparent that organizing around a specific issue, rather than advocacy in a general sense, was the way to go. Given both the current legislative environment and Saint Peter's new covenant relationship with Iglesia Luterana Sión, a predominately Spanish-speaking congregation, it also seemed obvious that immigration reform should be the first social justice issue to organize around.

Thus, the people of both Sión and Saint Peter's gathered in between our respective worship services this past November to gauge interest in the topic and begin discussing how we could mobilize.  While our group had a great deal of experience and interest in social justice issues in general, we decided a good first step would be organizing an informational workshop to provide us and the community with information on how the history of immigration in the United States relates to our current situation and why the issue should matter to people of faith.  After a bit of planning over the holidays, we organized a workshop for this Saturday, February 9th from 2 - 4p.  What follows is our bulletin announcement of the event in both English and Spanish:
Immigration Advocacy Workshop
Saturday, February 9, from 2:00-4:00 p.m.
In the Sanctuary and Living Room, Saint Peter's Church
Late last November, members of Saint Peter's and Iglesia Luterana Sión gathered together over brunch to discuss how we could begin organizing around important social justice issues, with an initial emphasis on immigration advocacy. We decided to plan an Immigration Advocacy Workshop, and those efforts have now come to fruition. Ravi Ragbir, Director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York, will discuss how current issues relate to past immigration and Amy Gottlieb, Program Director of the Friends Service Committee's Immigrant Rights Program, will discuss why immigration issues should matter to people of faith. After worshiping together we'll proceed to the main discussion and conclude with time for light refreshment and informal conversation. Please join us! For more information, contact Vicar Dustin.
Taller sobre defensa migratoria
Sábado, 09 de febrero, de 14:00 - 16:00
En el Santuario y living room, Iglesia San Pedro
A finales del pasado mes de noviembre, los miembros de San Pedro y la Iglesia Luterana Sión se reunieron durante brunch para discutir cómo podríamos empezar a organizarnos en torno a importantes cuestiones de justicia social, con énfasis inicial cuestiones de inmigración. Nos decidimos a planear un taller de defensa migratoria, y esos esfuerzos han llegado a buen término. Ravi Ragbir, director de la Coalición del Nuevo Santuario de Nueva York, hablará sobre problemas actuales relacionados con el pasado sistema migratorio y Amy Gottlieb, directora del programa de Servicio de los Amigos del Comité del Programa de Derechos de los Inmigrantes, hablará sobre por qué los temas de inmigración debe importar a la gente de fe. Después de orar juntos vamos a proceder a la discusión principal y concluir con un ligero refrigerio y conversación informal. Por favor, únete a nosotros! Para obtener más información, consulta al Vicario Dustin.
If you're in the New York area, please feel free to come as well... just contact me ahead of time if possible at  If not, please check back on It's Only a Northern Blog for information about how the event went, as well as a .pdf of the liturgy we used for our opening bilingual prayer service.

While planning the workshop over the last couple months, some members of Saint Peter's and Sión have also partnered with the New Sanctuary Movement of NY to participate in their weekly Jericho Walk around the Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices at 26 Federal Plaza.  Reflecting the Israelites march around the walls of Jericho in the book of Joshua, participants walk seven times around Federal Plaza in silent prayer and then conclude with praying out loud.  Having attended twice myself, I can certainly say it's a powerful advocacy action and also serves to comfort those who are facing deportation hearings inside.  To get a better idea of what the Jericho Walk is like, check out the video below:

Immigration reform, I'd argue, is perhaps one of the most obvious policy issues the Judeo-Christian faith speaks to, so we'll certainly be engaged in advocacy until justice for immigrants is attained.  Has your congregation or faith community worked on immigration reform?  If so, please comment and let me know what you've learned.  Thanks so much!

God's peace,

Dustin is currently a vicar at the Lutheran Office for World Community and Saint Peter's Church in Manhattan, having recently completed his second year of a Masters of Divinity program at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. While seeking ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, his focus is on the intersection between worship, service and justice building in de-centralized faith communities unencumbered by a traditional church building. In his free time, Dustin likes playing frisbee, hiking and pretending to know how to sing.

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