New York City New Sanctuary Coalition: A Ministry of Accompaniment and the Bold Prayer of Our Feet
By Rev. David Rommereim
This Sunday, March 15, 2015, at Good Shepherd we will be honored with the presence of the Executive Director of NYC New Sanctuary Coalition, Ravi Ragbir. He will share stories about the status of the “ministry of accompaniment” that highlights the Sanctuary Movement in NYC and nationwide. He will also inform the broad reach of the coalition, as we have provided a public spirituality of justice and fairness in our dealings with an ever fearful community. The photos in this letter share with you the public work at Federal Plaza (ICE) through the bold prayer of encircling the plaza with faith leaders and migrants. This courageous prayer seeks a release of the barbarous grip in our national immigration policies that have injured families and communities seeking for a safe place to earn a living.
I asked Ravi to come and be with us so that those new to our membership may share an enlightened prayer, with and among the immigrant families both in our congregation, community, and city.
Good Shepherd is a founding member of the New Sanctuary Coalition. Since 2006 we have had various members of our “security team” learn how to accompany our members to Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE). We have also been consistently informed as to the issues migrants face in adjusting to a new land, a new environment, and finding a safe place to participate in community life. That has been our commitment at Good Shepherd. It is one example of the ministry dedicated to the radical hospitality of Jesus.
The members of Good Shepherd initiated this working relationship through a unanimous vote of our membership at our congregational meeting back in 2007. It was one of our saints, Walter Jensen, who reminded us that part of being a Christian, a faithful person of God, and an American, is remembering that we are all immigrants. Walter was 90 at the time he spoke those thoughts among us. He died three years later.
He reminded us that he himself was a product of an immigration system that was not helpful to the sojourner. He remembered that his father was an undocumented migrant in 1918 - a fiddle player on a ship transporting people from Denmark to the USA. In 1918 he jumped ship and, as Walter shared, “went underground for eight years.” Walter’s father then decided to become a citizen and gained citizenship eight years later.
At the time of our decision to enter the New Sanctuary Coalition our country was riddled with vitriolic political rhetoric from both sides of the Congressional isle. I received a few “hate mails” as we discussed this ministry with and among the migrants in our neighborhood. People thought the church was getting involved in politics. However, as was clarified through the actions of our members and sensitive neighbors - we were simply practicing our faith by “welcoming the stranger.”
At the time our congregation needed to make a decision about our involvement in such a politically hot-bed issue. We were well informed and educated on the depth of immigration policy over the last 50 to 60 years. Each new policy since 1965 endangered the migrant and made it more difficult for them. What once was the hallmark of America, expressed in our beloved Miss Liberty in NY Harbor, has become extremely complicated for today’s migrant from the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, or points east. Our immigration laws are now punitive and harmful to families.
It was Mr. Jensen who invited our congregation to follow the pastor’s lead because, as he said, “We should practice our faith knowing that we are all immigrants.” The ministry of accompaniment has inspired the community of Good Shepherd to learn how to welcome many who are searching for a safe place to raise a family, work honestly, and earn a fair wage.
Ravi Ragbir will provide the stories of New Sanctuary this Sunday and share with us the powerful mechanism of accompaniment that serves those whose “backs are against the wall.”
by Brita Rose
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in." Matthew 25:35
This week marks the two year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy - the deadliest and most destructive of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, as well as the second-costliest in U.S. history, next to Hurricane Katrina.
Officially an "Extra-tropical Cyclone," Sandy became the largest Atlantic hurricane on record affecting 24 states in the United States, with particularly severe damage in New Jersey and New York. Its storm surge hit New York City on October 29, flooding streets, tunnels and subway lines and cutting power in and around the city which cost the city over $68 billion in damages. At least 286 people were killed along the path of the storm.
The commitment of Good Shepherd, to offer hope and to help the community heal from these tragic events has played out through various local initiatives, as well as through involvement with the work of Faith in New York (FiNY) with whom Rev. David Rommereim serves as a co-vice president.
Immediately following the storm our neighboring church, St. Jacobi, in Sunset Park, provided a hub out of which the innovative grass roots initiative, Occupy Sandy, was able to operate. Occupy Sandy, an outgrowth of Occupy Wall Street was, with astonishing efficiency, able to organize and facilitate both volunteers and supplies to the most effected regions, in particular the Rockaways in Brooklyn.
Good Shepherd Church opened its basement gym as a storage space for supplies to be picked up by the steady stream of generous volunteers on their way to help clean up the damaged sites. The outpouring of help that week was incredible, from clothes donations and food preparation to medical assistance and clean-up. A first-hand account of that unique time can also be read on Good Shepherd's blog.
Good Shepherd also provided storage space for the initiative 'Hearts Connected' spearheaded by its Office Manager, Donna Lubrano. Clothes and other supplies were donated and stored for pick-up by those in most need. To this day, Hearts Connected (whose contact page can be found on facebook) is still giving out clothes to the poor, and portable heaters to Sandy victims. “Staten Island’s Midland Avenue and Coney Island were particularly damaged. Many uninhabitable houses have not been touched and people are still living with mold and temporary heating” said Donna. The work continues.
Two years later so many New Yorkers are still suffering from the effects of the storm and struggling to navigate the bureaucracy of Sandy relief. Moreover, the storm uncovered some long-standing inequalities that have existed in low-income areas of the city, and showed us the need to pay close attention to both poverty and climate change.
But there is a silver lining to this mammoth process of rebuilding. In addition to the encouragement of numerous grassroots service organizations and emergency response teams manifested by local faith ministries and others, FiNY, through their persistent hard work have made substantial headway in a reluctant city to help it heal from this devastating storm. By taking a prophetic stand for Sandy impacted communities, by calling for local hire in Sandy rebuilding, and by practicing creation care to help stop the effects of climate change by supporting climate jobs, FiNY has directly served and advocated for thousands of Sandy Survivors. In collaboration with ‘The Alliance for a Just Rebuilding,’ ‘New York Disaster Interfaith Services,’ and the ‘PICO National Network,’ its efforts have yielded positive results, as illustrated from the list of accomplishments outlined by FiNY below:
On October 15th, 2014 Faith in New York Clergy and Lay-Leaders meet with Mayor Bill de Blasio to discuss rebuilding Sandy affected communities through local jobs at the ‘Far Rockaway Recovery Opportunity & Resource Fair’ which was attended by 700 New Yorkers who were connected to jobs, resources and training programs. During a press conference at the fair the Mayor announced the ‘Build it Back Local Hiring Initiative’ and the ‘Rockaways Economic Advancement Initiative.’
On July 29th, 2014 over 1650 people of faith came together at The Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of ‘New York for a Faith & Community Forum’ concerning the ‘Hurricane Sandy Rebuild,’ the above mentioned ‘Opportunity & Resource Fair’ was a direct result of the forum.
Faith in New York won passage of the New York City Council “Sandy Tracker Bill” (Bill no. 1040-a) on December 19, 2013. The legislation requires that all Sandy rebuilding projects receiving $100,000 or more in public money report important information on job quality and safety, including number of jobs created, the salary ranges, whether jobs are part-time or full-time, temporary or permanent, and the zip code of where each employee on the project resides.
Advocacy led to the creation of the $16 million (2,000 homes) Neighborhood Revitalization NYC ‘Mold Treatment Program’ after Hurricane Sandy. We secured a pledge of $1.2 million in emergency relief funds for undocumented Sandy victims from the NYC Commission on Immigrant Affairs.
Seeing the connection between Climate Change and Hurricane Sandy, on September 21, 2014 Faith in New York led the ‘People's Climate March’ in New York City with the ‘Hurricane Sandy First Responders’ contingent and joined over 400,000 people who marched for climate justice that day.
FiNY continues to stand with Sandy survivors through prayer and holistic Sandy rebuild operations such as those listed above. In one on-going effort, Faith in New York Far Rockaway clergy and lay-leaders discuss the need for their community to be rebuilt through local jobs as reported in this New York Daily News article - "Sandy victims want relief funds to go towards jobs in hard hit areas" by Jennifer Fermino, and in the New York Times article - "New York Today: Learning From Hurricane Sandy" by Annie Correal.
This week FiNY leaders met at a Far Rockaway vigil to pray for and remember the victims of this unprecedented storm. We see that their efforts have not been in vain and as part of the local faith community we, at Good Shepherd, join them in their prayers and support their continued efforts to serve those most affected and still struggling to restore their broken lives.
“O afflicted city, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires." - Isaiah 54:11
Article in German paper written in response to the posting of the 'Economic Well-Being Award'
Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Germany, Oct. 24, 2014
By Nikolaus Piper
Even in these days it is still rewarding to read newspaper ads. Last Saturday I found a half-page ad in the New York Times. In it an “Economic Well-Being Award” was announced. The Award will go to an economist, or a group of economists, who can explain why the American economy did so much better between 1946 and 1971 than it did between 1972 and 2012. Remarkable is not so much the Award itself or the prize money of 33,000 Dollars. It is its sponsor – the Bay Ridge United Methodist Church, a tiny congregation of merely 40 members in Southern Brooklyn.
How the Award was created, is one of these stories that is possible only in America. The pastor of the congregation is the Reverend Robert Emerick. Emerick, who is deeply rooted in the progressive true-to-life tradition of Methodism, discovered his interest in economics during the last Presidential campaign. “I’ve got the impression that nobody talked about facts, the discussion was led by propaganda machines,” he says. Consequently Emerick looked for the facts himself. His friend, Tracey Mott, head of the Economics Department at the University of Denver, provided him with a reading list and so Emerick took a crash course in basic Economics: Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, the Polish economist Michal Kalecki, and American economic history. Finally he came to the conclusion that even the experts couldn’t explain certain facts. So he got the idea to offer an Award.
This past September the council of the church voted with a strong majority for the unusual project. For Emerick this all has to do with the Bible. “Jesus teaches us to create Heaven on Earth by loving each other. We shall be radically committed to the physical, social, economic, and spiritual well-being of mankind.” The idea of looking for facts, not for ideology, is part of the American tradition as he sees it. “Pragmatism is a core American virtue,” Emerick says.
And how does a small church get the money to offer an award of $33,000 Dollars? The answer is: from its past. The Methodists in Bay Ridge owned a big property with a big church that no longer fitted the needs of the congregation. Therefore, they sold three quarters of their property to the City of New York and decided to build on the remaining land a new, smaller, solar-powered church. The proceeds from the sale are, together with the offerings of the faithful, not only sufficient for the expenses of the church, but also for finance projects like the Award.
The pastor has received a lot of responses to the ad from all over the U.S, some of them from professional economists. Maybe something significant will grow out of this initiative.
A Comparison of Two Periods of