What You Can Do to Help Your Immigrant Neighbors in this Time of Crisis

Please read this post from Kathy Doan, a Ruling Elder (Session member) and Executive Director of the Capital Area Immigrants Rights Coalition. 

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Photo from https://faithinaction.org/federation/congregation-action-network/

As the Executive Director of the Capital Area Immigrants Rights Coalition, the only non-profit immigration legal service provider in the Washington area focused exclusively on assisting the over 2000 immigrant men, women and children detained on a daily basis in 12 detention centers in Maryland and Virginia, I am frequently asked what can be done to help immigrants under threat in our communities, as well as respond to the horrific treatment of immigrant children and families at the border.

While it is easy to feel overwhelmed and hopeless, there is much that we can and should be doing to protect our immigrant neighbors and fight for justice for those seeking refuge in our country.  

  1. First, we can demand that our elected leaders pursue policies that are in accord with our obligations under international law to provide an opportunity for those fleeing violence in their homelands to apply for asylum and not be relegated to long and dangerous waits in Mexico. 
  2. Second, we can demand that our elected leaders ensure that policies put into place to protect unaccompanied immigrant children are enforced. 
  3. Third, we can demand that our elected leaders pursue policies that address the factors that are forcing men, women and children to abandon their home countries in order to survive. 
  4. Fourth, we can weave a strong safety net around the immigrants in our own communities who are threatened with detention and deportation by supporting local efforts to educate immigrants on their rights in an encounter with ICE, join a “Rapid Response” team to respond to an ICE raid, accompany an immigrant to their ICE check-in and support local families impacted by the detention of a loved one.

The good news is that there is already a robust local network of congregations, non-profit immigration service providers and advocacy organizations in the DMV that provide many opportunities to engage in the fight for more just and compassionate immigration laws and policies.  NYAPC is one of dozens of congregations that belong to the Congregation Action Network (formerly DMV Sanctuary Congregational Network).  CAN is divided into three clusters: DC, Northern Virginia and Montgomery/PG Counties.  The DC Cluster meets once a month at National City Christian Church.  A number of members of NYAPC church, including Fritz and myself, regularly attend these meetings.  The DC Cluster is divided into various committees focusing on both local and national efforts to defend immigrants and advocate for more just laws and policies.  We need more people to join us!  If you would like to know more about CAN, please email me at kathryndoan@yahoo.com

Another opportunity to help detained immigrants in our area is to volunteer with the Capital Area Immigrants Rights Coalition.  We need volunteers to assist on jail visits, staff our detention hotline and assist with translation needs. For more information go to https://www.caircoalition.org/how-to-help/volunteering.

Finally, know the numbers to call in the event of the detention of a friend or family member: 

https://www.facebook.com/CAIRCoalitionDC/photos/a.187505218087245/1222891381215285/?type=3&theater

As you can see, there are many ways to put your “faith in action” on behalf of our immigrant brothers and sisters, so chose something and get going!

Kathy Doan and Omar Angel Perez -- 3

 

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General View of the Demonstration - 3

Out of the Shadows – Sermon from June 23, 2019

I preached this sermon Sunday June 23, 2019 at The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church.  This sermon was preached honoring world Refugee Sunday.  We gave thanks for the refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants in our church and communities.   The first scripture was Psalm 42.  The second scripture, which this sermon is based on was the story of Jesus and the Demonic from Luke 8:26-39. 

I would love to hear from you response and stories to the question asked here:   How has Jesus Christ saved your life?    

Blessings, Alice 

—–

The weekend after Travon Martin was shot, we said nothing in church.  He wasn’t lifted up in the time of confession, in the sermon or in the prayer time.  His presence wasn’t included amongst us that day.

I grew up in a multi-cultural Los Angeles in the 80s and 90s.  We lived near immigrants from Central America and Vietnam, and I am multi-ethnic in my own identity — half Chinese and half white.  We celebrated our cultural diversity by appreciating different languages and ethnic foods — yet by not talking about race directly, I was implicitly taught that we were living in post racial America.  Or, as it is also known today — I was taught color blindness. 

For my first call into ministry, my husband and I moved to Ithaca, New York from Washington DC.   We lived downtown, where the majority of our neighbors were white, and the church I served was majority white people except for a large contingent of Karen ethnic minority refugees from Burma.  I held three false assumptions:  #1 There were very few people of color, including black people, living in this town; #2 There were no racial tensions and because of these first two  #3 Race didn’t need to be addressed.

But then that week happened.  Travyon Martin, an unarmed black boy, was shot in Florida.  The news covered it.  Our friends were talking about it.  But neither my colleague, who is white, or I said anything. 

Jesus appeared that day in the form of Professor M, who is black,  a Professor at Cornell University.  I had baptized Lorraine’s grandchildren. She had been on my search committee. I had sat across from her at many a Wednesday night church potluck supper.   With a combination of directness and kindness, Professor M let me know in no uncertain terms that we had missed the Gospel message for that day.  She let me know that she expected me to do better.   It was through Professor M that Jesus appeared opening up the opportunity to be set free from some racist assumptions, to be opened to the reality of violence against people of color, especially those who are considered to be black and brown in our country. 

Where has Jesus spoken into your life setting you free from the power of sin and death inviting you instead to life lived abundantly in the power of the resurrection?  Or put more simply, think of a story, in your own life when Jesus set you free….

———

The story of Jesus and the demonic is that kind of story of God’s freeing power. It is indeed a strange one —-  this idea of processing a man.  Many us avoid this kind of story.  We aren’t sure what to make of it.  We think of demons either in terms of some kind of cartoon caricature dressed in red with horns and a spiky tail or something much more scary buried deep within our world and maybe even within our very souls.  

These demons are not something we are comfortable talking about;  Just like the community did to Legion —  we try to shackle them, bury them, put them in the tomb, and it is for that very reason that we are called by Jesus to stare directly into the face of these demons and command them to come out.  

———

I started with the demon of racism.  We each are coming to our own stories of when we began to see; stories where we are called to dig deep into our assumptions and our stereotypes.  

Xenophobia is another demon driving our country apart.  We have read about the horrors going on inside the detention facilities on own country’s southern boarder:  

  • There are three girls ages 11 to 15 who are taking shifts caring for a sick 2 year old boy because there is no adult around caring for them.  
  • Other children report eating frozen food that hasn’t been heated or rice for every meal. 
  • Some children report not having a shower in two weeks.
  • There are no toothbrushes, no soap, the only blankets are foil ones.  
  • Lights are on all night long, the a/c is blasting too cold, there isn’t enough access to bathroom facilities.    

These thousands of children sleeping on concrete floors are the same ages as the ones who come up here for children’s time. As a country we are giving into the demons of fear,  turning to a brutal anger,  which have turned to abuse.  

Our hearts break.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.  This is not who we are.

 ———

When we were living in Ithaca, NY we got to know some of the refugees from the Karen minority group from Burma.  Ms. H was one of the high schoolers in that community.  She lived in a refugee camp in Thailand until she was 14, living in basic conditions, sometimes without enough food or medicine, but always with her family.  

Her family came to Ithaca to be resettled when she was about to start high school.  She had gone to school in the refugee camp in Thailand, so she knew some English.  It was hard, but teachers and people from the church gave her extra tutoring.  In 2014 she graduated from high school and was the first person in that refugee community to go onto college.  After college, she went on to get her masters in nursing.  For the past five years as she has continued her education, she has returned back to that refugee camp bringing methods for water purification, a medical clinic, and English and math classes.  She has encouraged others who came to upstate New York as refugees to do well in school and join her in going back in the summers bringing back knowledge and hope.  I look at Ms. H and I see Legion, the man that Jesus set free.  

She is different from Legion, of course.   She hasn’t had to battle the demons of the mind or of the heart.  Her immediate community and family have been her rock and support.  She was never cast out.   But outside of her nuclear family, like Legion she bore the wounds of warfare and religious persecution.  They tried to kill her family and to wipe out everyone in her ethnic group. She grew up with family but in a refugee camp isolated and excluded from all the privileges of being a citizen of this world.  

Her story is more hopeful.  But we know too of millions of refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants, who because of violence and economic desolation live a life unrecognizable to most of us.  It is an act of hope in the face of death — it is in hopes of the resurrection —  that we see families and individuals crossing desserts and mountains and rivers on flimsy rafts trying to get to this country, a country built on the resilience and faith of immigrants. These citizens of the world, who come with gumption, bravery and resilience are being turned right back to the literal tombs they are escaping from.

We will not stand for this kind of demon to take over the souls of our country.

———

This Biblical story connects deeply with our own story today. It begins in the county of the Gerasenes. There are two important things to notice here:  First, the good news of Jesus’s message that all are called as God’s beloved created in the image of God, this Good News has traveled beyond the immediate audience of the Jewish people. This good news has spread abroad to the world.  And second, the country of the Gerasenes is on the opposite side of the sea of Galilee. Just like Jesus telling the story of the Samaritan man, opening us up to the story of the foreigner, Jesus in this story of the demonic is literally crossing to the other side — crossing over to wrong side of the religious tracks.  He is going to the place considered to be the abyss.  

When Jesus arrives, he meets Legion.   This is a clue in the story that those first century listeners would have cued into. Legion is the Roman name for a large military unit meaning that the Roman army is the cause of this man’s violent and destructive behavior and the whole society is possessed by the effects of violence of the empire.

When we read the story this way that this man is possessed by the powers of empire and that the community too is possessed by these powers that seek to control, this story starts to feel not so far removed.  This story is our story today.

There are the demons in this world, demons that get their power from those political and social forces that we give into at the expense of the Gospel message.  

These are demons that we seek to push away  until they appear with devastating regularity

  • with a shooting of a person who looks black or brown by police
  • with gun violence in our very city, that some 29 people over Memorial Day weekend where victims of gun violence, a violence that we have ignored because it has mostly been on the other side of the river, where the people with power do not live
  • and with the demons of what is going on in the detention facilities on the border — with children the same age as mine the same age as the one I still nurse at my breast and the one I teaching how to read.

I am afraid for the soul of our country.  But I am not without hope.  

———

This hope comes when we dig deep and recall our own stories —  that story I asked you to consider in the beginning: Where in our own life has Jesus set you free?  It is a question that might catch us off guard.We don’t often talk about our personal experiences with Jesus. But at the heart of it,  these stories of personal experiences are what drive us, define us, and what embolden us to dig deeper into who we are called to be.   

In the letter to the Philippians, in the section that is called the Christ hymn, we hear those life changing words that Jesus, though he was in the form of God,  emptied himself taking on the form of a slave, taking on on the form of human flesh, bearing our sufferings and knowing our joys.

 It is this Jesus who knows us so deeply — this Jesus who has already bore our deepest sins, who knows us in the core of our beings,  who commands the demon within Legion to come out — and then who sends Legion,  right back to be the healer of that very community that had shackled him.  Jesus not only heals Legion but makes him a healer. 

With the power of knowing the weight of the shackles and deep experience of the desperation of the living in the shadow of the death of the tombs, Legion is called to tell his story of Jesus setting him free.And because the community knows his story, they will listen. 

We are Legion. We are the community. We are the ones who have been commissioned as healers. We are the ones who must be healed.  

What is your healing story?  

Where has Jesus set you free?  

Tell it so that we may live. 

 

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Usher and Deacon Sign Up

It takes a village, or more specifically two people for the early service and four people for the second service.  What are we talking about?  Ushers.  Add in one liturgist per service and we’re looking for eight volunteers per week to help with the worship service.  Ushers greet members and visitors, collect and count the offering, and direct folks to receive communion.  Liturgists lead the Call to Worship and the Dedication Prayer, and deliver the first scripture reading.  These moments of service are open to all members – there is no requirement that one serve on a church board or be a deacon.  Volunteering as an usher or liturgist is easy via the online SignUp Genius.  You can also send an email to the points of contact listed in the bulletin: John Yoder for ushers and Mark Zaineddin for liturgists.  We look forward to you joining us on a future Sunday.

-Deacons

Dedication Sunday

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Every fall when I start thinking about my pledge for the next year, I usually think about all the big things that New York Avenue does. Our big ministries that meet on a weekly basis like the Radcliffe Room and Community Club, Sunday School for all ages, and more Bible Studies and small groups to join that I can even name. I think back on growing up at a Presbyterian Church in North Carolina and remember my mom teaching me how important it is to give as a spiritual practice.

This year I have been reminded of the not so big things that our community provides for each other, that often go unnoticed. Spontaneous offers of help, unnecessary but appreciated thank yous, meals for both joyful times and sad. I have also been thinking about all of the things I want New York Avenue to accomplish, like a well attended regularly meeting youth group, a successful partnership with the BID, the ability to plug in visitors and new members to the right groups for them, and that everyone who wishes to go visit our international partners in Kenya and Cuba will have the chance to do so.

All of these things are supported by your time volunteering as part of this community. And many of them are supported by our pledges and gifts throughout the year. Today on All Saints’ Sunday, remember that Pledging is a way to honor and continue the legacy of those we remember today.

If you have not yet had the opportunity to pledge, I hope you will remember the little things that you love about New York Avenue in deciding how much you pledge this coming year.

Thank you!

Helen Anthony

Stewardship

Good morning. I’m Astrid Brigham. I was asked to talk this morning about Stewardship.

A lot of activities that I take part in here at New York Avenue are able to happen because of funding help from the church.

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Penny, Astrid, and Jacob at Massanetta

As you might know, in July I went to Massanetta, a church summer camp in southern Virginia, with Penny, Jacob, Helen, and Sarah. I had an awesome time. The food was delicious, and I probably had more sugar there than I ever have in my life. I made friends in the mini groups, and everyone there was amazing. We all stayed up until almost 11 o’clock each night, and on the first evening, we made 10,250 bags of rice, soy, dried vegetables, and a vitamin packet to send to people in need.

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Astrid packing meals with Rise Against Hunger

One thing that I look forward to every year is the Youth Day of Service to Honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Kids of all ages from churches across Washington, DC gather right here to make lunch, organize the clothing closets, and make care packages for the homeless.26231655_10155713093123941_3163252311497586240_n

Just about a month before that, one of my favorite parts of the holiday season takes place. The Christmas Pageant takes place every December, and I love rehearsing the songs and the pageant itself. I have taken part in the pageant for years, starting when I was a sheep.

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2018 Christmas Pageant

I also enjoy taking part in Youth Sunday. I enjoy spending time with my friends to help create an entire church service that everyone enjoys.

All of these activities are at least partially funded by the church.

In order to keep activities like these going for the youth of the church, please consider filling out a Stewardship Pledge. When you fill out a stewardship pledge, New York Avenue has a better idea of how much money there will be and what activities we can plan for the coming year.

Thank you!

Stewardship

IMG_2505As we focus for the past and coming weeks on stewardship, I wanted to share with you how I came to recognize financially giving to the church as an important part in my contribution to the church mission.If any of you study personality types, you may sympathize with the fact that I grew up as a free-spirit non-planner in a family of A-type schedule oriented family members. I frustrated my parents to no end by being non-committal to family gatherings, springing last minute plans and liking to keep my options open. I must admit, even today the most alluring option on a Facebook event invitation is the famous “maybe” RSVP.

But I will say as I’ve gotten older and become a professional, gotten more involved in many activities and joined the session here at New York Ave, I’ve recognized the need to plan and yes, even enjoy the thrill of a well balanced calendar. Most importantly in my role on session I’ve realized the importance of financial planning that I hadn’t recognized before. I have previously given to the church in random denominations of bills in the offering plate based on whatever I had in my wallet. While that contribution is important, I realize now the amount of importance we in session put on planned budget for the year, and how important pledged amounts are for our planning process. That may sound a little boring but it allows us the ability to plan the financial year and fund all of the things that we as church members see as the life of our church here in DC, including our missions in the city, with our communities and those in need, and the overall operations of our church.

Recognizing this I am personally recommitting my planning, as much hard work as it is, to ensure I am making my pledge for 2019 and following through on that commitment. I hope you will join me in prayerfully committing your pledge this year so that we can continue to invest in the wonderfully impactful programs for our community here at NYAPC.

Thank you,

Erica Morgan

Congregational Sunday Recap

What do we love about NYAPC? Where do we see God? What do we hope for? Where is the Holy Spirit calling us? These are a few of the questions discussed at the Sept. 30 Congregational Sunday, organized around the Stewardship campaign’s theme of Opportunity.  Nine tables of members of all ages, each with a facilitator, explored these questions and shared their responses. While each table’s conversations varied, there were consistent themes that came out of all these discussions.42887267_10156371521133941_245521328734470144_n

What We Value.

  • Congregational Life: Words like friendly, community, helping others, supporting one another, warm, and welcoming came up over and over again.
  • Mission: We focused on the Radcliffe Room (mentioned quite a few times) along with the new Downtown Daytime Services Center in partnership with the Downtown Business Improvement District.
  • Worship: We value the preaching and the music, mentioned specifically several times.
  • Children and Youth: We love our growing children and youth programs.
  • Openness – We also value being available when the Holy Spirit calls, being a church that says “yes” to new opportunities, and that NYAPC is a place to explore what we truly believe without judgment.

What We Hope For.

  • Continued support for families, expanding programs for children and youth, especially for middle and high school youth.
  • Continued support for the Radcliffe Room and taking advantage of opportunities at the Homeless Day Services Center.
  • Deepening our church’s spiritual strengths
  • Growing into our current commitments and balancing congregational care with community involvement and activism
  • Learning new ways to support one another
  • Education programs that nurture both head and heart

Where Do We See God?

And all our comments pointed to our faith. We see God in the gestures of others and in caring during times of struggle. We find God in worship, in practical examples of what we can do day-to-day in sermons and when Sundays are a time to get focused on the upcoming week. One group summed it up as follows:  We see God in the Diaconal Ministers, the music, the Radcliffe Room, and the friendliness of members.

This summary and more detailed notes have been shared with the Vision/Strategy Team and the Session. If you want to talk with someone at the Vision/Strategy Team about any of these questions, or other concerns and hopes for NYAPC, email vision-strategy@nyapc.org or contact any of the members of the team: Miriam Dewhurst, Kathy Doan, Paul Dornan, Roger Gench, Hal Hiemstra, Meg House, Olivia Singelmann, Jim Spearman, Sarah McGinnis, Edie Holmes Snyder, Alice Tewell, and Matthew Wieseler.

And if you’d like to see a visual representation of our conversations, take a look at the tree in the sanctuary!

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