After a year-long process, St. Michael’s is officially an Immigrant Welcoming Congregation. The St. Michael’s Vestry unanimously approved and signed the IWC Declaration on April 18, 2013. Please read on for the most recent activities of the IWC and below that for more general information.
September 2014 — Summer Activities and Fall Retreat
Much of our work this summer has focused on our commitment as a congregation to accompany and support immigrants and their families at their request when facing immigration-related hearings and meetings or seeking change in their immigration status. On June 1, Marco Mejia, a well-known immigrant rights activist from Portland Jobs with Justice, presented a workshop on immigrant rights and protection tips in encounters with law enforcement or Immigration and Customs Enforcement Officers to approximately 20 members of the misa and their supporters. As a result of the workshop, the IWC team is creating a process to help undocumented persons develop individual safety plans for themselves and their families should the need arise.
We have compiled a list of attorneys willing to represent Spanish-speaking people involved in removal/deportation hearings. Additionally, we continued our support of three misa members and their families facing issues related to the undocumented status of one of their members and of four youths seeking assistance with DACA applications.
On Sunday, October 5, from 2:30-5:30 pm, the IWC team will hold its second annual mini-retreat to review St. Michael’s IWC Declaration and the progress we have made this past year addressing the four commitments we endorsed as a faith community. We will set goals for the next year and brainstorm on how we can achieve them in ways that continue to bring the English- and Spanish-speaking members of our community closer together. If you feel called to this ministry, please join us!
Please read below for the history of this process and what it means for St. Michael’s. You may also click here to read the Declaration itself.
What does the Declaration Say?
Here is the essence of our commitment as a faith community:
Moved by our consciences to stand in solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters and their families, we declare ourselves an Immigrant Welcoming Congregation (IWC) and commit to the following: 1) Deepen the connection between immigrant and nonimmigrant members and families of St. Michael & All Angels Church; 2) Educate ourselves and our community about immigration-related issues; 3) Advocate for justice and comprehensive humane immigration reform; 4) Accompany and support immigrants and their families at their request when facing immigration-related hearings and meetings or seeking change in their immigration status. Moreover, we support the IWC team’s leadership in the undertaking of these commitments, and the presentation of this Declaration for review and reaffirmation by the Vestry every three years.
How did St. Michael’s become an IWC?
Our journey began in December 2011 when two events intersected. We were invited by the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice (formerly the Oregon New Sanctuary Movement) to join six other faith communities in Portland in a year-long process to become an Immigrant Welcoming Congregation. Simultaneously, an immigrant family well known at St. Michael’s revealed that they were facing their final appeal hearing of deportation orders. The family had been too scared and embarrassed to share this information openly until they realized that they might simply disappear from our lives. Members of St. Michael’s responded by filling the federal court room for the hearing and, in part because of the Holy Spirit working through our presence, the deportation orders were rescinded. We were overjoyed by this outcome but at the same time saddened that an immigrant family in our community had felt so alone among us, a stranger in our midst. How had this happened, since we saw ourselves as welcoming and extending hospitality?
And so we embarked upon a year-long journey to deepen the connection between members who attend the English-language services and members who attend the Spanish-language Misa at St. Michael’s. A small group of parishioners, who felt called to form the IWC team began a series of one-on-one conversations with other members across all services to listen to their immigration stories, from long ago and very recently, and to ask what an IWC would look like or mean to them. We also explored how other faith communities in the country advocated for and supported immigrants vulnerable to exploitation and deportation. The ideas generated by these conversations led to a four week series of two-hour presentations and discussions with the congregation to shape our vision of being an IWC. Six weeks later, a draft of the IWC Declaration that incorporated participants’ input was presented to the congregation for comment. The revised final version of the Declaration was then presented to and approved by the Vestry .
What does the Declaration mean for St. Michael’s?
Each of the four areas in the Declaration include specific commitments that we are making as a faith community. In essence, the Declaration is our road map for the next three years The IWC team will hold a retreat in mid-June to develop an action plan that addresses the four areas and the commitments therein. But how we live into truly becoming an IWC depends on all of us at St. Michael’s. We hope each of you will feel called to join us in deepening connections, learning more, advocating for justice and supporting immigrants and their families in our community.
Thank you to all who participated in the conversations and discussions over the past year. We feel truly blessed to have had so many members of the congregation involved in the process of developing the IWC Declaration. If you are interested in becoming active in this ministry, or being part of the IWC team, please contact Bev Hoeffer, firstname.lastname@example.org or any member of the IWC team.