on the Church & the Metropolitan Community
Report to the Spring Meeting, April 25, 2009
Over the past year, the Committee on the Church and the Metropolitan Community continued to work around issues of immigration and racism and religious expression, tried a new approach to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration and worked with our first group of in-care committee members.
The committee brought the Metro Association resolutions on the New Sanctuary Movement and racism and religious expression to the New York Conference annual meeting last June. Following thoughtful discussions, both were passed by the Conference delegates. There were some revisions, but the resolutions remained true to the intent of the originals. The Conference also voted to send the New Sanctuary Movement resolution to General Synod.
The committee and the UCC remain active around immigration and sanctuary issues. First Congregational Church of Rockaway Beach has joined Judson Memorial Church, Riverside Church, Victoria Congregational Church and Broadway UCC in signing a pledge of support to the New Sanctuary Movement, and a couple of other UCC congregations have asked how they can be involved. Michael Caine and Ruby Wilson continue to represent the Association at ecumenical immigration events, and UCC members and ministers are very well represented in the leadership of the New York City New Sanctuary Movement. All UCC immigrant churches (i.e., made up predominantly of immigrant worshippers) are invited to a NSM “listening meeting” of immigrant faith bodies on May 9 to talk about their issues and concerns and how the New Sanctuary Movement can work with them. The NSM continues to support families of persons facing deportation with U.S. immigrant children, but has also broadened its approach to accompany and support other immigrants facing deportation, carry out legislative advocacy, do education around immigration issues, and help resource congregations that want to provide services for immigrants. Our committee continues to be available to make presentations on immigration and sanctuary issues. Contact Martha Gotwals at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to arrange for a presenter.
We were privileged to organize a wonderful Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration on January 19 that brought together an estimated 150 people from 20 UCC congregations. Geoffrey Black, New York Conference minister and now candidate for UCC general minister and president, was our preacher. Following an introduction by Michael Caine, Geoffrey delivered an inspiring address on what the country and the church has and hasn’t accomplished around issues of racism and justice and the importance of being clear on where we stand. We received a warm welcome from our hosts from First Congregational Church of Morrisania and were graced by remarks from host pastor Sunder Devaprasad and assistant pastor Benjamin Samuel. Music was a very special part of the service, and our musical guests performed separately and together in a variety of styles. Our deep thanks for the bands from First Congregational Church of Morrisania and Safe Haven Ministries and for the stirring voices of Ruby Wilson, Lisa Robinson and the singers from Safe Haven Ministries and Church of the Evangel; Pamela Warrick Smith; and Matthew Westfox of All Souls Bethlehem.
The celebration differed from past years in that we asked churches to write “Prayers for the New President” in preparation for and at the event. Members and ministers shared their hopes and dreams for this new era of national leadership. At the event, people talked about their responses and read from prayers and letters that we received. Tom Martinez is working with UCC Metro website coordinator Lucy Pullen Werner to copy and post all the prayers online so that everybody can see them. Geoffrey Black has agreed to take the originals to Washington to try to get them to the President.
We have completed our first year with in-care members of our committee who served between six months and a year. Our hope in adding this category of member was that the experience would provide the in-care people with the opportunity to become more familiar with both the Association and the UCC’s work around justice and witness. For our part, we had looked forward to learning from them and expanding our scope of service with their help. We had five active in-care members from 2008-2009, who functioned as full members of the committee, assisting us in shaping our vision and our actions. They, in turn, particularly appreciated the opportunity to connect with and work with the larger church. Three of our in-care members have agreed to stand for election as regular members.
The UCC Metro-Suffolk Churches in Action listserv we administer is now up to about 90 members. We use the listserv to let UCC churches and members know about peace, justice, witness and other social action issues around which the UCC is active. All members are welcome to post activities or advocacy carried out by their church, the association, the conference or the national church. The committee itself also posts information about actions that we recommend to the Association. To be added to the listserv, contact Martha Gotwals.
In the coming year, we hope to find ways to link up our Association’s social justice work with the UCC nationally through exploring ways to be part of MyUCC. We may also look into creating a group on Facebook.
We thank everyone for your support in the past year. Please let us know if there are new issues or actions that you would like the committee to undertake.
COMMITTEE ON THE CHURCH & THE METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY
Martha R. Gotwals, Co-Chair
Elsa Callender, Co-Chair
Claudia de la Cruz, Board Liaison
Dr. Charles Maliti
Patricia Loomis Ruiz