"A Sanctuary in the City… Living Faith"

A Pastoral Response to Concern about the Executive Order on Immigration and Refugees

Dearly Beloved Friends in Christ,

There is a gathering in Bronson Park Sunday, February 5, at noon. The purpose is to protest immigration restrictions recently implemented by executive action. Members of our congregation have expressed interest in, and support for, the gathering, as pastor serving among you, I commend the February 5 gathering for your attention and participation. And I urge the eradication of any caustic rhetoric of personal attack. Please, let me explain further.

Less than two months ago, our congregation welcomed from Syria, the Zamel family including three adults and four children. They came originally from, and through, some of the worst places of violence in their country. They came to us after a harrowing and horrible 3-4 year refugee journey. They came to Kalamazoo where dozens of members of our congregation and others have worked incessantly to provide sanctuary—to welcome them warmly and attend to all needs physical, educational, vocational, transportation, security, and healthy emotional stability. This is biblical faith as called for in Hebrew scripture to give care to refugees, widows, orphans, strangers, and all who are vulnerable as if they are honored guests. This is the love of God that Jesus embodied as he crossed political borders and cultural / religious boundaries to care, to heal, to empower life abundant for all in God’s love. This is living faith we humbly and imperfectly attempt to fulfill. And this would be impossible under the recent executive action. I don’t know all the legalistic details. We know so many other vulnerable innocents like the Zamel family will continue to suffer as a result of this action, which may be intended for good, but reflects prejudice and has been implemented in ways thoughtless and practically counterproductive, raising the ire of our allies and enemies alike. It is right to protest.

And it is right and necessary to do so in a way which exemplifies the very values and witness we seek to espouse, resisting any inclination within ourselves toward the very offense we abhor. Any words in rallying cry or casual conversation laced with emotions which criticize or demonize, only create further division as we dehumanize our own friends, our fellow citizens, and our sister and brother children of God in a similar spirit to this executive action we lament. Yes, those of us who are particularly concerned . . . feel the offense and fear the implications. Yes, raise our voice and rise to action. And yes, do so precisely in the way of love and respect, valuing all human life, which we seek to nurture and support, remembering others among us who do not feel so supportive of this gathering. As we continue to live with a diversity of voices, perspectives, concerns . . . I pray we may all listen and speak, ever seeking unity more than victory among those with whom we may differ.

As you may be so moved and available this Sunday, February 5 . . . participate in this gathering with the grace of God, in the grace of God, for the grace and peace of God to reign among us all.

Grace and peace to you,
The Rev. Dr. Seth E. Weeldreyer