Responding to the Crisis of Immigration & Family Separation

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We held our first Samaritan Response Team meeting this last weekend on Saturday night and Sunday morning in order to try to creatively focus on what is happening at the border. Ryan led us through several exercises in which we researched the issues and the many people and organizations who are responding, brainstormed different ways to join in and make an impact, and articulate tangible practices to start right away.

One of the themes we all latched onto was wanting to be part of changing the narrative from a fabric of fear and violence to a fabric of care and welcome. We realized that we want to start working now to make it very easy to say “YES” to whatever is asked of us in the future. For example, we talked about the huge impact we could make in the future if—as a whole community—we learned Spanish and became certified foster parents.

One immediate action we’ve taken is a t-shirt campaign to raise funds to aid those detained. The campaign is called ‘Love > Lines’ and you can buy the shirts here. The shirts are $30 and the campaign will run through July 17th, so if you’re interested we encourage you to act soon and share it out on your social networks.

We will be meeting again this Friday and continuing this conversation and planning - join us!!

Dave has summarized a lot of the information we covered during our time:

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History & Context

Though we gathered to talk specifically about the crisis of family separation on the border, we quickly dove into some of the historical context around immigration. The US has a long and often tragic history around immigration, borders, detention, and the movement (forced or voluntary) of people. The current crisis is not a unique event but rather another instance of our historied difficulty in navigating a much longer crisis of the politics and economics of immigration and borders.

Current Realities & Changing Policies

In the last weeks, 2,342 children have been separated from their parents at the border. While the official policy is that only families who were found crossing between ports of entry would be detained and separated, there have been reports that families following the procedural steps for requesting asylum (turning oneself in at a port of entry, passing a credible threat test, etc.) have also experienced separation.

Family separation happened because of the so called “zero tolerance policy” enacted by the Trump Administration which heightened the ramification of crossing the border without documentation (while technically a misdemeanor, the zero tolerance policy has lumped it in with more serious felony charges). Because children can not be held in federal jails, they are separated from their parents and shuffled between federal agencies (ICE, Refugee Resettlement, Health and Human Services. 

While the most recent executive order signed by President Trump stops the separation of families at the border and a court order required these families to be reunited within 30 days, there remains a crisis of immigration, the question of how we got to the point where we were separating children from their parents, and what we can do about it.

Local Impact

 This issue hits particularly close to home for those of us in the East Bay. A plan to relocate and detain upwards of 47,000 immigrants at the Concord Naval Weapons Station has been circulating. In Pleasant Hill, a local shelter houses unaccompanied minors, including two young girls who were separated from their families because of the recent policy changes.

Even if this current crisis of separated families is resolved, it is clear there is much work to be done in order to care well for the dignity, health, and wholeness of individuals and families who have immigrated to the United States. 

If you’re wanting to jump in right now and join some organizations that are making a huge impact, we’ve added a list below!

Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity - Nueva Esparanza (http://www.im4humanintegrity.org/new/northern-california/)

Working locally in the Bay Area, the Nueva Esparanza program forms accompaniment teams to walk alongside recently immigrated individuals and families as they adjust to and navigate life locally in the East Bay. 

Monument Impact (http://monumentimpact.org/en/home/)

Monument Impact provides all kinds of services - including job resources, language and computer classes, community engagement, etc. - for the low-income immigrant community in the Concord area of the East Bay. Their Day Labor Program provides clear and respectful ways for many immigrants to find work at fair prices by working with contractors and individuals who need skilled labor for a variety of jobs.

Change.org (https://www.change.org/p/president-trump-children-don-t-belong-in-cages)

To sign a petition focused on ending long-term, indefinite detention of immigrant children:

The Youth Center (https://www.theyoungcenter.org/)

The Young Center is a champion for the rights and best interests of unaccompanied immigrant children, making sure that wherever they land, whether here in the U.S. or in their home country, they are safe. To learn more or donate:

RAICES (https://www.raicestexas.org/about)

Raices is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees in Texas. They need donations, volunteers for events and immigration accompaniment volunteers:  

Safe Passage Project (https://www.safepassageproject.org/)

Safe Passage Project was created to address the unmet legal needs of indigent immigrant youth living in New York by providing these indigent youth with basic advice and assistance. We work with volunteer attorneys to provide representation for unaccompanied minors in immigration court. Safe Passage provides training, resources, and mentoring to volunteer attorneys regarding Special Immigrant Juvenile (“SIJ”) status as well as other possible immigration alternatives for children. 

KIND: Kids In Need of Defense (https://supportkind.org/)

KIND’s vision is to create a world in which children’s rights and well-being are protected as they migrate alone in search of safety. They work to achieve this vision by ensuring that no child appears in immigration court without high quality legal representation; advancing laws, policies, and practices that ensure children’s protection and uphold their right to due process and fundamental fairness; and promoting in countries of origin, transit, and destination durable solutions to child migration that are grounded in the best interests of the child and ensure that no child is forced to involuntarily migrate.

Why We're Mixing Up our Summer Rhythm

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If you've peeked at our calendar or popped in to a Gathering this summer, you've noticed that we're mixing up our rhythm this summer! From Memorial Day to Labor Day, we're experimenting with three different types of Gathering: Eucharist, Collective, and PLAY.

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EUCHARIST Gatherings are filled with songs, scripture, teaching, prayer, and Eucharist. These nights will feel like our regular rhythm of Gathering throughout the year.

COLLECTIVE Gatherings take the same general shape as our Eucharist Gatherings (~75 minutes at St. Paul's in the Sanctuary) but the evenings are each designed to bring us together in different ways - through intentional conversation, dreaming and brainstorming, praying together, wine and hors d'oeuvres, etc. 

PLAY Gatherings take us out of our normal space and invite us to enjoy the relational life we share together. Whether at a backyard BBQ or a Beach Day, PLAY Gatherings invite us to celebrate the Jesus-following family of Open Door through laughter, play, hospitality, and adventure. 

Open Door Kids is happening each week throughout the summer except for our PLAY Gatherings.

We've got this rhythm mapped out on our calendar so you always know what to expect (though, as always, there's almost always a few surprises any time Open Door gathers together!). 

We've had a few questions about the summer rhythm, so here are some answers!

Why are we doing this?

Several reasons. Summer at Open Door is always a bit "liquid" - people travel, kids are out of school, and everyone's rhythm and schedule of life shifts a bit. We wanted to provide consistency in the midst of summer while also adapting to the realities of summer's inconsistencies. So we've scheduled PLAY gatherings on long/holiday weekends and are experimenting to see how the balance between Collective and Eucharist Gatherings push us into faithful presence in new ways  (and with different size crowds Gathering Sunday to Sunday). 

Another big reason is our spring learning journey around Sabbath. We committed early this year, as part of our Horizon, to rhythms of formation that are shaped by rest and Sabbath rather than busyness and noise. Rotating between Eucharist, Collective, and PLAY Gatherings gives all of our volunteer teams (kids, tech, music, etc.) some extra breathing room and a season of Sabbath during the summer months.

A third reason would be the hope that experimenting with our Gatherings would allow us to faithfully move in sync with God's invitation on our community. We don't simply Gather as a break from our regular routine or as another segment of a compartmentalized life; we Gather because God is inviting us on mission for the sake of the East Bay and our Summer Gatherings will press in to that invitation. 

Is this a permanent thing or just for summer?

We'll resume our rhythm of weekly Eucharist Gatherings after Labor Day (though we'll likely continue to experiment with Collective and PLAY Gatherings at strategic times throughout the year). 

What about Open Door Kids?

While we're switching up the rhythm for adults, we wanted to ensure a consistent learning environment for our Open Door Kids. Developmentally and holistically, we believe a stable rhythm and consistent presence is critical for the faith formation of the kids in our community.

The only exception is our PLAY Gatherings where we invite the entire family of Open Door - kids, adults, and families alike - to play together!

We're a worshipping community; how are Collective and PLAY Gatherings worshipful? 

Worship is the fullness of our lives lived in response to God's extravagant love made real in Jesus. Singing and teaching are certainly a part of what it means to be a worshipping community, but we also find intentional conversation, shared meals, serving, and dreaming together to be a beautiful and necessary expression of worship. 

We don't want to just be great worshippers through music but through our relationships, our insights, and our everyday lives lived both when we're scattered around the East Bay and when we gather together.

Any other questions? Please let us know!

Everyday Story, Ben Sanders

Sabbath is hard.

We generally really enjoy family adventures on the weekends, but if you've ever been in a family, then you might know that adventures aren't always restful. They're usually filling in some way, but often times we adventure and move around so much that it leaves us exhausted rather than rested. By Sunday evening we're depleted and I find myself looking forward to diving back into my normal rhythm of work to get my energy back.

No joke: I look forward to work to get my rest.

I don't think that's how it was supposed to be. So we filled out our Sabbath sheet and....!

Failed miserably.

Sabbath is hard.
Intentional rest is hard with kids.

So this past weekend when Vanessa asked me where I wanted to go, I said "here." The kids were in the backyard playing together in the sunlight and the house was calm; it seemed like a bit of shalom had broken through at the Sanders home and I didn't want to break it.

We did a few things that might not fully qualify as Sabbath in some books, like when I mowed the lawn, but for me, it was rejuvenating to "tend the earth" if you will. It's not something I ever do at "work" and it was life-giving. So I did it.

We're still figuring out how to Sabbath. It's not our natural rhythm, but I'm hopeful that we'll continue finding a rhythm that restores us.

Everyday Story, Kate Schwass

As we left a favorite neighborhood restaurant lately, the couple at the table next to us commented "this is like your Cheers!"  It was true, it is one of the several nearby spots where "everyone knows [our] names."  One of our great joys over the last few years has been settling into our neighborhood and developing deep relationships with both neighbors and local businesses.  What made me pause about this couple's comments was two things: 1. That restaurant is not the only one where we know the names of the staff and get hugs when we arrive and leave, and 2. Actually knowing the names of the business owners and staff was a crucial piece of developing these relationships.  

About 8 months ago, Chris asked the servers at another restaurant, Sushi Park, what their names were - and quite suddenly, it unlocked such a special relationship.  We went from becoming customers and servers to friends.  Before that, we were friendly, but the relationships did not feel personal.  The same thing has happened at many of our local spots - partially because we prioritize shopping and eating out as locally as possible... but mostly due to Chris' consistent practice of introducing us and asking for the names of the people we meet.  The act of knowing and using someone's name is incredibly powerful.  We know this from the Bible, of course - God consistently uses the act of naming to cement his relationships with his people.  And while we aren't giving anyone their names, the act of inquiring about the names of others, remembering their names and sharing our own has become a important practice for us.  We now know and use the names of most of our neighbors and the staff of several restaurants, the grocery store, the dry cleaners, the nail salon and my favorite crossing guard.  Moving through our neighborhood has become a true joy - filled with interactions with people who know us and who we know.  We feel deeply connected to this place - and it all started with asking "What's your name?" 

Invitation: Take the first step this week and introduce yourself to someone in your local context - could be the janitor of your building, the barista at the coffee shop or neighbor down the street.  I can't promise it won't feel awkward (actually, I bet it probably will!) but I do promise that over time, it will be totally worth it! 

Everyday Story, Leah Chambers

I so desperately need this series on Sabbath right now! My life, job, and family feels very chaotic, and I find myself less and less able to distinguish what’s important in any particular moment. Recognizing sabbath and rest as a STARTING point - instead of something I do only when I am at the collapsing point - is a complete shift. 

I don’t yet know which moves I’m going to make towards rest, and am a little nervous about how I’m going to get there, but I’m hungering for a different rhythm than the one I currently have.

Invitation: How do I interact with sabbath and rest in the middle of transitional or really tough (but hopefully short) seasons? I'd love to hear some ideas!

Sabbath as the Provocative Center

From the first week of our Sabbath learning journey - listen to the podcast  here .

From the first week of our Sabbath learning journey - listen to the podcast here.

In the beginning, God created a rhythm of moving and breathing and living in the world.

God moved to this rhythm and God invited humans to do the same; to be human was to move to this divine and sacred rhythm that began with rest and wonder and awe and deep and divine community.

It was out of this rhythm that the Community of God created the universe, shaped the very first humans, and then invited them into the magnificent and creative task of making the rest of the earth look like the garden paradise they were created in.

But before the humans got to work, they were reminded of this rhythm, this provocative center of a starting place - that though there was good work to be done, they paused and entered into this rhythm, this starting place, this sabbath.

Before Sabbath was a command
Before it was a law or a practice,
Before it was something to be argued about and defined
Before it was performed or abandoned            

It was simply the rhythm of reality and divinity and humanity. 

THE FIRST HOLY THING

The very first time in all of the scriptures anything is called holy, it's not God who is called holy, but God who calls this rhythm of rest to be holy. This day, this period of time, and all that's encompassed within it, is blessed and called holy by God. A holy and provocative center for nearly everything. 

THE VERY FIRST DAY AND THE REALITY OF OUR DAYS

The first full day the first humans experience is an invitation to sit back and rest in the wonder and delight of God’s creation before taking up the God-given mantle of continuing the work of creation.

Think about this first day. What would it would have been like to be a human in this world?

Contrast that with our experience of the world.

Hectic, frenetic, chaotic, busy, constant go-go-go. We live in a "never enough" reality.

Never enough time money sex possessions iPhones books records deals trips cars shoes.

It's never enough. There can never be enough. You are not enough. You can never be enough. 

A myth of scarcity enters a story of abundance and we are completely out of sync from this rhythm that undergirds everything. 

THE SCRIPTURES AND SABBATH

Sabbath doesn't start as a command - just a reality. 

It becomes a command after the Israelites are forced to work for the furtherance of Pharoah building bricks and more bricks every day. The command of Sabbath is to remind God's people that they free from the oppression of forced labor, that they follow a God of freedom and liberation, that they are invited to TRUST that

their lives are not in their own hands
their worth is not dependent on their work
the pinnacle of their existence is not earning or production or the capital they invest
but the simple and sacred beauty of their soul at rest in God’s presence.

that they are creatures who are a delight to their creator and
filled with creativity and beauty and mystery and
an invitation themselves participate in God’s creation.

Sabbath is not a command to pull them out of their rhythm but a reminder to hang on to what is most true about them, about God, about the world.

Later in the story, when Israel is not under the thumb of an oppressive empire but at risk of becoming the empire, Sabbath becomes a prophetic and provocative reminder that God's call to justice and righteousness and rest and life and flourishing is for all people in all places (Isaiah 58). Sabbath s a subversive and countercultural call to deep justice and pervasive peace for all people and all places. 

And when Jesus arrives on the scene, Sabbath has been ritualized and littered with rules. It had become a chore on the weekly to-do list - far from its intention and purpose. So in all of the gospel accounts Jesus has these encounters with cynics about sabbath practices. Jesus says he is not beholden to sabbath but actually lord over sabbath (lord = master = knows what it's all about).

And he says humans were not made for the sabbath, but the sabbath was made for humans. 

In other words, humans aren’t invited to squeeze themselves through a sabbath-shaped hole, but recognize that the rhythm of sabbath shapes us into Human-shaped humans.

Without sabbath, we are not the humans God intended us to be.

God did not create us as robots or worker bees but
as magnificent and creative creatures of delight that
the scriptures call humans and
God calls supremely good.

In the Book of Hebrews, the writer comes close to just flat out saying that Jesus is sabbath, the very rest of God - that to understand Jesus is to cease our striving and our yearning and our constant questioning of who’s in and who’s out and whether or not we measure up.

A PEOPLE OUT OF SYNC

If our first response when we’re asked how we’re doing, is “I’m busy,”
we’re out of sync with this rhythm.

If six days we labor and toil and on the seventh we wake up and stress and worry and fret about our labor and toil until we open our computers or inboxes so that we can continue labor and toil,
we’re out of sync with this rhythm.

If we think that we’ll take a break one or two weeks a year, or that we’ll stop working once we hit 65 or 68 or 70,
we’re out of sync with this rhythm.

If we think that a set of religious practices is going to earn us space near and dear to the heart of Jesus,
we’re out of sync with this rhythm that invites us to set aside our striving and our earning. 

If we try to outsource our responsibility for others by cutting a check or casting a vote,
we’re out of sync with this rhythm that draws us together as humans. 

If our brothers and sisters of color don’t feel like their lives matter,
we’re out of sync with this rhythm that reminds us what it means to be created in the image of God.

If our rest and leisure and pleasure comes at the expense of others - their humanity, their health, their dignity -
we’re way out of sync with this rhythm built into the fabric of our world. 

The world is waiting
The sacred is humming
The invitation is there.

Will you sync up with this rhythm of reality?
Will you step into this provocative center?
Will you live as a human created in God’s image?
To rest. 
To wonder.
To enjoy.
To sabbath.