This week I did something I really hate to do. I had to be assertive! - in order to help our friends at Iglesia de San Romero get the telephone they need in order not to have to be plugged into a charger in the wall for three hours every day as part of their “Alternatives to Detention” monitoring system. I made the call, spoke to the person about freedom and dignity, and ultimately got a “yes.” As I put down the phone, my eyes fell on the reading I was preparing for Morning Prayer at the nursing home next week. It was Matthew 10:16-22: “See, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. So you must be as clever as snakes, but as innocent as doves...do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say... for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of our loving God speaking through you.”
Let me tell you, the scriptures are on fire these days. Walking with some of the most powerless people in our nation, things look different. The words of the Gospel come alive! Here's one from Exodus 22, the first reading this Sunday: “Thus says the Lord: You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves.” Or how about Exodus 3, God speaking to Moses at the burning bush: ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them” (That one made me cry).
Then there is the prodigal son, getting his dignity back. It's all about dignity! Yesterday I gave the men at Iglesia de San Romero a handout from the ACLU called “Conosca sus derechas” (“Know your rights.”) One of the men looked at me with such a defeated depth of sadness. “Ilegales no tienen derechas,” he said. (“Illegals don't have rights.”) (Does that punch you in the gut, the way it does to me?) I said (choked out), “Nadie es ilegal en los ojos de Dios” (no one is illegal in the eyes of God). Unfortunately, he was almost right. People who are here without documents have very few legal rights – not even the right to an attorney. But they do have some. And everyone, everywhere, has basic human rights. And most importantly, there is no such thing as an illegal human being.
Saturday we met at the bakery for the first Visioning Day of St Romero's. We worked on a newspaper ad for the church, and people let me know how important it is to keep the word “inclusive” in our self-description. It's not actually a given, is it? We decided to become a member church of the Federation of Christian Ministries, a move which will eventually enable us to use FCM's 501 (3)( c). All decisions were made by consensus. The group agreed that I can use the title “pastor,” when needed (as in, “I'm their pastor, and I'm here to bail them out.”) We came up with a system of accountability around funds. I've been reluctant to reimburse myself for anything because there was no way of maintaining accountability. Rachael is going to be the person keeping an eye on that. Finally, we had a proposal that we change the time of Sunday Mass to 10 or 10:30 am. There is one regular attendee who would strongly like an earlier time than 11, and another who would strongly like it to stay at 11... how do others feel? Many thanks to Bill, Caryl, Linda, Don and Rachael for giving up your Saturday morning to work on some of the nuts and bolts of being church together!!
We note with sadness the passing of Jesuit Fr. Dean Brackley in El Salvador. Dean was one of the priests who volunteered to take the place of the six Jesuits killed on November 16, 1989. When I first visited El Salvador in 2005, he said of people from the States: “They come here, they fall in love, they go back, ruined for life.” He was right!
And lastly, Fr Roy Bourgeois is in Rome, where he and two women (Erin Hanna of WOC, and Miriam Duignan) were arrested at the Vatican for protesting without a permit. Three women priests were with them, and they were not arrested – because they were wearing vestments! Pretty wonderful, I think.
Blessings and love to all,
“I invite you to discover your vocation in downward mobility. It's a scary request... The world is obsessed with wealth and security and upward mobility and prestige. But let us teach solidarity, walking with the victims, serving and loving. I offer this for you to consider - downward mobility. And I would say in this enterprise there is a great deal of hope. Have the courage to... lose control. Have the courage to feel useless. Have the courage to listen. Have the courage to receive. Have the courage to let your heart be broken. Have the courage to feel. Have the courage to fall in love. Have the courage to get ruined for life. Have the courage to make a friend.” Dean Brackley, S.J. (He was right!!)
Also of note:
Barrett Smith was one of the people that Eli and I met in El Salvador last April. His community, Carpenter's Church in Lubbock, Texas, is a church of and with the poor of that city. For some months they have had a Tent City which has been life-giving for many people, and they are petitioning City Hall to have it declared a shelter. If you'd like to sign a petition showing your support, go to http://signon.org/sign/lubbock-city-council?source=s.em.mt&r_by=1384353
It hasn't been in the news here, much, but Central America has been suffering from some extreme weather: El Salvador has had more than 4 feet of rain in just the past week. To learn about what our friends at Shekina Baptist in Santa Ana are doing to help, and to donate if you wish, go to http://cieloazulfund.blogspot.com/2011/10/shekina-responds-to-national-emergency.html
(St Romero's has given its first tithe to Shekina for this purpose)
Two talks and a movie, all on immigration, in the first week of November (all free):
Wednesday, Nov. 2 - “The Faces of Immigration - How our Unjust and Broken System Destroys Lives - and What We Can Do About It.” several speakers, including myself and a high school teacher who is trying to organize support for disappeared people, and a family member of someone who was detained. At 7:00 pm, Downtown Presbyterian Church, 121 N. Fitzhugh Street Rochester.
Thursday, Nov. 3 – documentary “After I Pick the Fruit” by Nancy Ghertner, St. John Fisher College Basil Auditorium, rm. 135, 6:00pm – follow the lives of five farmworker women over ten years -
Friday, Nov. 4 – Wally Ruehle, a teenager who has been working for immigration rights, and I will all speak at Friends Meetinghouse, 84 Scio St, 6:00 pm
Oscar Romero Church
A Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy
Worshiping in the Catholic Tradition
Mass: Sundays, 11 am
St Joseph's House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14620