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Letter from the Dean – Feb 1, 2017
A Pastoral Announcement from the Dean
February 1, 2017
This past Sunday in a sermon I delivered on the Beatitudes, (Matthew 5:1-12) I was moved by the Spirit to bring what I believe to be a Gospel word and challenge to the recent policy decisions that dramatically impact refugee resettlement and immigration. I do so fully appreciating when it comes to things political often our views vary dramatically, however, as your Priest and pastor, the invitation is to consider always the challenge of the Gospel and stretch beyond the political and seek to find a truth through an incarnational experience. We have before us in flesh and blood those who are refugees and those affected by these policy decisions. I invite you to read the sermon here or listen to it here. Bishop Sean has also released a statement regarding the Church’s response to these circumstances; I urge you to read it here.
The refugee ban hits close to home as we in this community have a firsthand experience of the plight of refugees as having embraced a family with whom we are working closely to create a new life. We know from this experience the depth of the vetting process and we have only begun to discover the depth of resiliency of this family who were forced from their homes by violence and war. The ban on refugees from Syria in particular strikes close to home, as the family we have embraced were excited to welcome their widowed sister and her sons who were to arrive in New York this week. This will not of course happen now. This very day some of us have met this families’ tears, offering words of comfort and support as they digest this difficult news. I cannot imagine the reality of being separated from those I love because of war and violence, and I cannot now imagine the depth of despair of having hopes of what appeared to be a certain new life and being reunited with loved ones suddenly taken away.
We also learned this week from Archdeacon Cluett and Deacon Charlie Barebo that the on-going armed conflict in South Sudan has now reached as far south as the Diocese of Kajo Keji, our partner diocese. Many are fleeing South Sudan, heading again into Uganda now as refugees, and many are seeking refuge in church and schools that we have helped build in the Diocese of Kajo Keji. Our prayers are desperately needed there as are supplies of food and medicine. These are friends, families, and their children who some of us have broken bread with, shared songs and prayers with, laughs and tears with.
Many have asked what we can do as a community of faith in response to these circumstances. I urge the following:
- Struggle with the Gospel in conversation with these policies. Start with the Beatitudes. Respect and listen to one another and by all means be aware that at the base of much doubt is fear. Primarily we are called to Love one another. Sometimes that means hearing hard things from one another and choosing to stay in relationship.
- Educate ourselves about refugee ministry and this unprecedented refugee crisis. You can do this by visiting Episcopal Migration Ministries website.
- If you are called to a ministry of advocacy for refugees and specifically in response to the ban, you can get resources and action items by joining the 2X4 Fight for Refugees Campaign. You can also learn more about the Episcopal Church’s Advocacy work and materials by joining the Episcopal Public Policy Network.
- I urge you to consider responding to the Bishop’s plea for donations to quickly make available food and medicine to those in refugee camps in Kajo Keji by sending a check to the Diocese of Bethlehem, 333 Wyandotte St., Bethlehem, PA 18015, memo line “Kajo Keji Relief”.
- Finally, I know some among us are tempted by disillusionment. This disillusionment may tempt you to want to isolate or remove yourself. I urge you to reconsider. Instead, now is the time to do just the opposite. If you have not yet done so, consider joining in the faithful actions of love that make a real difference in people’s lives, actions that take place here every day. Cook on the team that prepares meals at New Bethany Ministries. Serve on one of the Thrift Shop ministry teams that provide affordable clothing to those in need and whose income is funneled into the community typically for the neediest among our neighbors. Give of your time on Thursdays to feed and shelter homeless men. Join the refugee ministry team and become part of the loving fabric that is helping a family find new life. You will discover in service with others that when we serve Christ together nothing divides us, our mission unites us.
It remains my greatest honor to serve my Lord and to serve this beloved community.
The Very Rev. Anthony R. Pompa
Dean and Rector
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