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by Kate Kooyman
May 1 is a big day, and I don’t want the church to miss it.
On May 1, immigrants (and many folks who love and support immigrants) will participate in a nation-wide day of action. They will not work. They will not spend money. They will attend marches and demonstrations. They will show, in big and small ways, that the contributions immigrants make to the U.S. economy and social fabric is crucial… to everyone.
May 1 is this Monday.
We are divided in this country, and for whatever reason (perhaps a calculated one), our views on immigration have become a shorthand for sorting who is “us” and who is “them.” A recent poll shows that 3 out of 4 white Evangelicals approve of the President’s travel ban, while more than 80% of black Protestants disagree. So the way we talk about this march on Sunday might be important.
What if, when we worship in Christian churches this Sunday, we made a point to pray for immigrants in our communities who are feeling overwhelmed, hated, full of fear and grief and facing an unknown future? What if we offered a prayer that threatened immigrants might experience a peace that passes understanding? It strikes me that, regardless of one’s partisan leanings, the teachings of our faith should compel us to pray for one another.
And what if we followed up on that prayer for peace by becoming peacemakers ourselves? What if pastors and small groups from churches brought a few cases of water to our local march as an offering of support to those who are bravely fighting for justice and human dignity? Water is a strong symbol of our faith, and even those who disagree with an immigrant’s decision to march for their family’s future might find this act of servanthood to be faith-forming.
What if we made signs that said, “Jesus was an immigrant,” and “Immigrants are a blessing,” and “Welcome the stranger,” and “Dios te bendiga”?
What if we pastors called a fellow minister in our community who serves an immigrant congregation and asked how we could pray for him, how we could lend her collegial support, how we could bear one another’s burdens in this historic era of stress and hope, of trial and faith?
What if preachers used illustrations in our sermons this Sunday that pointed to the dignity of workers, to the faithfulness of speaking truth to power, to the historic role Christians have played (or failed to play, as the case may be) in putting our bodies and our safety on the line, “laying down one’s life for one’s friend”?
What if we called our representative while we were marching and explained how ready we are for laws that reflect reality: that immigrants bear God’s image, benefit our economy, are members of our churches, are beloved by their creator and by their community?
What if those who support immigrants decided to muster up the same energy as the xenophobic trolls have, and bombarded the comment sections of our local newspapers with a message of love, unity, gratitude for the gifts immigrants bring? (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read the comments sometime, just so you understand the mantra, “Never Read the Comments.”)
Monday is a big, important day for immigrants, and for the church in the United States. It’s up to each of us to ensure that the body of Christ in this world — that’s you and me — does not lose itself in the “Trump era” (to borrow a phrase from our Attorney General). I think Monday is such an awesome chance to be who we are.
As I hope we’ll all hear on Monday, over and over, El pueblo unido jamás será vencido. Which, to me, is another way of saying, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”