Churches in the Diocese Welcome Immigrant Families Back to School

On Tuesday, August 1, community leaders including Bishop Johnson gathered to hear the concerns of the Latino community in Memphis and the effect of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers’ sweeping raids.  As expected, the stories they heard were about the consequences of the ICE raids and the environment of fear and anxiety they have unleashed among those of the Latino community. Individuals removed in the sweeping raid initiatives have left families without emotional, financial and relational stability. As Bishop Johnson shared with clergy and faith leaders in the diocese, “Intended or not, the consequences have been out of proportion to the problem they were hoping by some to solve.  They have certainly not been in keeping with the love that Christ has called us to show our neighbor.”

On Monday August 7, as the school year for many students began, Episcopalians from across the Diocese joined with other faith communities to welcome students back to school, holding signs that were written in English, Spanish, and even Arabic in order to let anxious students and families know that they are loved, welcomed, and a vital part of this community. Members of Holy Communion gathered at Grahamwood Elementary and Shady Grove Elementary, a school that the church has a relationship with by mentoring and caring for students and teachers throughout the year.  Others from St. George’s in Germantown reached out to Oak Forest Elementary, a school that the church already sponsors and was on the list of schools provided by Las Americas as a school with a significant Latino population.  For the Rev. Dorothy Wells, Rector of St. George’s, “It was an opportunity – however small – to show a group of students that regardless of race or ethnicity, they are loved and welcomed. And our coaches will be back in a few weeks, giving the same students lessons in reading and in life.”

The Rev. Scott Walters of Calvary, whose staff and congregation gathered at Berclair Elementry said, “It wasn’t the welcome we felt called to extend to a vulnerable population that moved me most about the morning. It was to see these children with their bright new sneakers (some of them) and lunch boxes and book bags and be transported to my own children’s first days of school. Days of expectancy and excitement and fear and uncertainty. It was the ordinariness of the first-day experience and the familiar look in the eyes of the Berclair kids that reminded me again of the common humanity we share beneath our various skin tones, clothing styles, accents of speech, countries of origin and so much more. The children were living reminders that what makes us distinctive need not divide us.” Maybe in a world that is so polarized, small acts of kindness and love can help remind us that the similarities that bind us together are a part of our common life together.  And simple acts of welcome can make our community a more loving place for all to be.

If you or your church was a part of this movement, please let us know so that we can update the story to reflect your participation.

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