El Paso’s magnificent welcome
and extraordinary need
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
Two months out and we are still in Texas, y’all. And El Paso is showing off in terms of radical hospitality! On Sunday, I worshipped at the Episcopal parish closest to the Mexico/US border: St. Christopher’s-El Paso (www.stchristopherelpaso.org). Rector Rev. J. J. Bernal was kind enough to spend some time educating me on how he works closely with Rev. Hector Trejo, who serves three Anglican parishes in Juarez, Mexico (directly across the border from El Paso) providing safe harbor to displaced people in search of asylum. Fr. Bernal explained that with the three church buildings in Juarez, they have space for housing and serving immigrants who are waiting for asylum in the U.S., but what they lack are the human resources to staff such a facility. Because the Anglican Church in Mexico, unlike the Roman Catholic Church, does not have a ministry set up for migrants, the Episcopal church is trying to help from across the border.
Fr. Bernal laments that his small parish of 50-75 can’t do more, though he personally crosses the border several times each week offering pastoral presence and help as he can. Fr. Bernal explained that St. Christopher’s partners with Annunciation House, a Roman Catholic ministry ( https://annunciationhouse.org/ ) to try to make an impact.
Annunciation House offers "Border Awareness Experiences" so those of us who want to get proximate to the issues of immigration can see for ourselves what conditions at the border are like. It is estimated that two thousand people are released by INS in El Paso alone each week, and Annunciation House provides shelter, food, and care packages to these folks, helping them to contact family in the US to arrange travel while they await decisions on asylum. Annunciation House has been doing this critical work for forty years, and recent US policy has made life miserable for immigrants and those serving them along the border.
Fr. Bernal expressed hope that the Episcopal Church, and EPF, can give "voice to the voiceless" by creating awareness and offering human resources. As I mentioned last week in "Peace Out," the Diocese of the Rio Grande is trying to expand its immigrant ministry through Borderland Ministries. I’m hoping EPF can find a way to connect parishes who need support in responding to their call to serve these strangers – these Children of God – to the resources they need within and outside the Episcopal Church. Join me in offering prayers for those fleeing and those ministering to them as we continue to look for creative and compassionate ways to raise money and awareness to help, and to advocate for the policy changes that will eliminate these extraordinary, dire needs.
I love to think of every flowing stream, every waterfall,
and every river as “baptizing” the physical universe,
washing away its inability to know how glorious it is.
Warm sunset over the desert in Anthony, New Mexico, just west of El Paso.
Something to celebrate this week with passage by the U. S. House of Representatives of HR 8 and HR 11! Thanks be to God for our Bishops United Against Gun Violence (co-sponsors of our Columbine Pilgrimage) for their effective witness and advocacy in lobbying in favor of these laws on Capitol Hill.
Also proud of my hometown, Birmingham, AL, for this week rightly declaring gun violence a public health nuisance. Read more here: http://s.al.com/K7t1fll .
REGISTRATION FOR COLUMBINE PILGRIMAGE!
Plan to Walk In Love with EPF in April! The weekend after Easter (April 26-28), we will make a pilgrimage to Columbine, Colorado to commemorate the horrible school massacre which happened there twenty years ago, and will rededicate ourselves to eradicating gun violence in America. We will partner with advocates against all forms of gun violence, which includes the daily loss of lives in communities across the country due to domestic violence, gang violence, workplace violence, mass killings, suicide and accidental shootings. Preaching on the Sunday of our commemoration will be Lutheran pastor Don Marxhzausen, who was forced out as pastor of his congregation when he dared eulogize, humanize and preside over the funerals of the young gunmen. I hope if any of you are able, you will join us in Columbine for what we hope will be a transformative remembrance.
We are bound for Tucson, AZ, trying to stay south and warm, and looking to worship at Grace-St. Paul’s later this week. I’ll also spend some time with those at St. Michael and All Angels, discussing how EPF can support their ongoing social justice ministries. Any other Peace Partners or EPF members want to get coffee while I am in Tucson? Let me know! epfactnow.
I usually draft this blog early in the week, so while it’s not captured here, by the time you read this we will have eaten Mardi Gras pancakes at St. Alban’s – El Paso and will be planning to attend the noon Ash Wednesday Eucharist there as well. Thanks to Francesca Wigle, formerly of St. Hildegard’s in Austin, for reaching out to me to make these experiences possible!
Backing up a bit, Steven and I did get to watch 1948: Creation and Catastrophe (available on Amazon, Google Play and iTunes) last week. Very informative for those of us wanting to understand the origins of the current conflicts in the region. From the IMDb site:
Through riveting and moving personal recollections of both Palestinians and Israelis, 1948: Creation and Catastrophe reveals the shocking events of the most pivotal year in the most controversial conflict in the world. It tells the story of the establishment of Israel as seen through the eyes of the people who lived it. But rather than being a history lesson, this documentary is a primer for the present. It is simply not possible to make sense of what is happening in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today without an understanding of 1948. This documentary was the last chance for many of its Israeli and Palestinian characters to narrate their first-hand accounts of the creation of a state and the expulsion of a nation. Hear stories from the Israelis and Palestinians who personally lived through events in Haifa, Jaffa, Dayr Yasin, Acre, Jerusalem, Ramla, Lydda and more. These shocking and dramatic events reveal the core of what drives the conflict today.
THIS WEEK! EPF’s Pensacola, Florida chapter still has room for pilgrims on their trip to Africatown on March 9-10. Please reach out to organizer Bill Sloan (850.748.2314 or wmsloan35) if you are interested in going with them.
Does anyone have a jewelry caster they can recommend? We still need to replenish our stock of EPF logo necklaces so we have plenty on hand for our anniversary year. If you are such an artisan or know one, please let me hear from you!
Until next time, power to the peaceful!
We’d like to hire a jewelry caster to craft more pendants and lapel pins, like this!
How can we support Melanie while EPF is on the road?