What are some of the areas in which the IWC has continued to work for immigrant justice?
After a year-long process, St. Michael’s became an Immigrant Welcoming Congregation in 2013. The vestry unanimously approved and signed the IWC Declaration on April 18, 2013, and in fall 2015, we became a sanctuary church. Through these actions and many others, we have chosen to declare our identity as a safe place for all. 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.
How did St. Michael’s become an IWC?
Each of the four areas in the Declaration include specific commitments that we are making as a faith community. The hope is that our parishioners feel called to deepen connections, continue to learn about immigrant issues, advocate for justice and support immigrants and their families in our community.
Our journey began in December 2011 when two events intersected. We were invited by IMIrJ, the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice, to join other faith communities in Portland to become an Immigrant Welcoming Congregation. Simultaneously, an immigrant family well known at St. Michael’s revealed that they were facing deportation. With the help of the Holy Spirit and the efforts of St. Michael’s members, the deportation orders were rescinded. We were overjoyed by this outcome but felt called to make a difference in the lives of other immigrants.
St. Michael’s then embarked on a journey to deepen the connection between members who attend the English-language services and members who attend the Spanish-language Misa. 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 immigration stories 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. These conversations led to presentations and discussions with the congregation to shape our vision of being an IWC. Eventually, 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 IWC Declaration mean for St. Michael’s?
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 non-immigrant 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.
- Appointed a Sanctuary Task Group that explored how St. Michael’s could best respond to a future request for sanctuary
- Gathered information and discussed the possibility of becoming a sanctuary church
- Prepared the building space to be ready should the need for sanctuary arise on short notice
- Formed a Rapid Response group to be available, on short notice, to show up and be supportive of a person who feels threatened by detention or deportation
- Addressed concerns in the St. Michael’s community by developing and offering workshops in Spanish focused on making emergency family plans and knowing one’s rights and a workshop in English on nonviolent intervention.
- Continuing to offer educational and discussion opportunities to the community, including Sunday morning Forums and documentary series
- Providing accompaniment and support for immigrants facing deportation or wishing to change their immigration status
- Participating in and inviting the community to rallies and vigils held in the Northwest to support and bring attention to immigrants being held in detention
- Providing information and assistance to young people applying for or renewing their DACA status
- Supporting bicultural and bilingual worship and social events such as soccer matches, Las Posadas in Advent, bilingual Stations of the Cross, Church Camp, Día de los Niños and many youth events