During February Grace’s Justice and Peace team collaborated with leaders of the Mission Committee of Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church in Oak Park to offer two public presentations about current immigration realities and concrete ways for people of faith to engage. In the weeks ahead, the Justice and Peace team is offering opportunities to go deeper into these issues: deeper in understanding, deeper in compassion, deeper in costly love, deeper in the way of the cross.
The public programs took place on February 2 and 16, as some 60 to 70 persons from our two congregations and a number of other faith communities, went deeper, hearing the firsthand testimony of Rev. Ben Lynch, co-pastor of Fair Oaks, and learning about the AMMPARO ministry strategy from program director Ms. Mary Campbell. Ben Lynch brought compelling images, powerful stories, a tender heart and persistent discomfort grounded in the gospel to his presentation about the situation at the southern border, specifically in the sister locales of Matamoros, Mexico, and Brownsville, Texas. Mary Campbell brought substantive, wide-angle perspective on the trans-national dynamics and unique challenges of the displacement of peoples across this hemisphere, along with heartening descriptions of the ministry programs which the ELCA (and others) have developed to provide specific ways in which to respond.
One of those responses is the Guardian Angels ministry, which provides training and support for individuals who are willing to come alongside migrant minors — school-age children or single parent families — to offer spiritual care and physical presence when those persons are facing procedural actions in formal immigration proceedings in the U.S. (For more information on the Guardian Angels role, go to elca.org and type “Guardian Angels” into the search box.) A total of 19 people at the sessions indicated active interest in participating in the Guardian Angels program, and the Justice and Peace team is now seeking to schedule a local training for this first wave, with an eye toward inviting others and providing additional training dates as needed. If you might be interested, feel free to contact Dick Martens or Mary Paulson for more information.
Throughout this Lenten season, the entire congregation is invited to go deeper by making use of the specially designed devotional guide “Strangers in the Land,” based on the book “Christians at the Border” by M. Daniel Carroll R., a professor of Hebrew scriptures at Wheaton College and an Adult Education presenter here at Grace in the past. These booklets are free and available in the atrium at the Justice and Peace team table on Sundays and at the reception desk during the week.
In order to go even deeper, the team is sponsoring simple luncheon meals (free will offering) and guided small group discussions after 11 a.m. worship services on three Sundays, March 8, March 22, and April 5 (Palm Sunday). These gatherings are open to all, and will be held in Grace’s Fellowship Hall. Please sign up online or at the reception desk so that the team can be sure there’s food for all.