May 2018

April 2, 2018. It was a regularly scheduled meeting of the Leadership Team – Board officers, Coordinating Council moderators, and the minister. Members of the sanctuary team had been invited to join us at 7:15 to meet Margaret Sawyer, from the Pioneer Valley Workers Center. The plan was for Margaret to share an update, and her insights gained from on their work supporting Lucio Perez, the man in sanctuary in Amherst.

Margaret was late. We waited. When she finally arrived, she was with Lauren Burke, an immigration lawyer advising the Workers Center. They told us about Irida, whom Lauren had just met. It was possible that Irida would ask for sanctuary.

The story of the next four days is many stories – stories of people dropping other plans to get us ready – just in case. A team went to Irida’s home to meet her and her family. We mobilized the people who needed to be mobilized, without sharing information that could jeopardize Irida’s safety and privacy. You/we delivered supplies and assembled furniture, transforming the room into a comfortable, welcoming space. We arranged for accompaniment volunteers and meal providers to be ready if and when she came. We ordered the shower. We drafted a press release and planned the press conference. Late Friday night Irida arrived. The organizing, planning and working out of details we could not have anticipated continues.

I cannot name or count all the members of this congregation and the community around us who stepped up that first week, and who have continued to help ever since. Our staff have been amazing as well. Each one of you has stories, and our stories will continue to multiply. I hope we will find many chances to tell them to one another, and to reflect on what they mean. I am filled with awe and gratitude at your openhearted generosity.

At the center of the story is Irida’s story, her many stories. They are hers to tell, as and when and how she chooses. We are here to accompany her, to give her a place of safety where she can still scold and cuddle and play with her children. We are here to bear witness, to let her story remind us of the injustices in our immigration system, and to do whatever we can to resist on behalf of Irida and millions of others. We are also here for one another, to remind ourselves to breathe, to take turns, and to remember to appreciate those who are on this journey with us in spirit when not in body.

May’s theme, serendipitously, is “Beloved Community.” The Society’s mission statement is printed on page 7 of this issue of the Pioneer. I invite you to read it. We are living that mission, and I am deeply, deeply grateful to be part of it.

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