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A commitment to welcoming the immigrant

A commitment to welcoming the immigrant
A UMNS photo by Kathleen Barry

By the Rev. Elizabeth Murray

On Sunday, Feb. 8, I had the opportunity to attend a Latino LARCUM prayer service at St. David’s Lutheran Church in West Columbia.

In 1995, the bishops of the Lutheran Synod, Anglican/Episcopal Diocese, Roman Catholic Diocese and United Methodist Conference in South Carolina “entered into a formal covenant … which has led to concrete actions proclaiming the commitment to the movement that seeks full, visible communion among all the members of Christ’s body.” The covenant that is upheld by each bishop seeks to promote unity, as brother and sisters in Christ, and to strive for justice for all people. The eleventh point in the covenant addresses immigration and Hispanic/Latino people. The point says that the bishops will “cooperate in welcoming the immigrant by working together to promote justice, provide social outreach and advocacy and encourage and assist immigrants to attend their respective church faith communities.”

I attended the service with the Rev. Ken Nelson, who was representing Bishop Jonathan Holston that day. St. David’s Lutheran Church hosts a Hispanic/Latino ministry called Cristo Rey, and many of their members and clergy were in attendance. There was an hour and a half discussion with the bishops about their visions for Hispanic/Latino ministry and the unity that comes from being one body, as Christ’s church.

The talk about unity and inclusivity in the church was very inspiring to hear. As my position as the Hispanic/Latino ministry consultant to the Office of Congregational Development, I believe deeply in the inclusion of our Hispanic/Latino family in the UMC.

The meeting ended with a prayer service that called on continued unity and just, humane immigration reform. We reaffirmed our baptismal covenant with a remembrance of our baptisms. As I watched my predominately Hispanic/Latino brothers and sisters wait in line and shuffle up to the front of the sanctuary to receive their blessing, I couldn’t help but think of how many of these families have been affected by our country’s harsh immigration laws. I had a flashback to when I was in Tucson, Arizona, at an Operation Streamline court case. I could visualize the migrants, bound in chains, walking up to the judge to receive their fate. Every day in Tucson, around 100 immigrants who were caught crossing the United States/Mexico border are sentenced to a minimum of 30 days in detention and then promptly deported. These are the same brothers and sisters that LARCUM has vowed to include and support.

My prayer is that our United Methodist efforts through LARCUM can start important, vulnerable conversation about not only Hispanic/Latino ministry, but also immigration reform, something that affects so many of the Hispanic/Latino families in our society.

Thank you to Bishop Holston for his dedication to LARCUM and reaching out to the Hispanic/Latino population in South Carolina. As United Methodists, I urge you consider the ways in which your church can reach out the Hispanic/Latino community in your area.

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