Minister's Monthly Column

 December2019

 

A MESSAGE FROM REVEREND CAROLYN

“Away in a manger, no crib for his bed …”

So the beloved Christmas carol begins.  “Away in a Manger” highlights the story of a holy family driven from their homeland and forced to seek refuge in a barn as strangers in a strange land.  The ancient story seems less than ancient as the world community now witnesses one of the largest human migrations in

history. 

All Souls has had a front row seat to the anguish that displacement brings.  But we have claimed a role to play in the peace that may come in claiming a new home with the help of strangers who become friends.

In 2016 All Souls purchased the house at 25 Jay Street and soon thereafter, it became home for the Mahlo family, then refugees from Syria by way of a refugee camp in Turkey.  After 2 ½ years, the Mahlos moved and are now doing well in their new home.

Soon thereafter, my friend Father Bob Washabaugh (St. Mary’s RC Church in Norwich) contacted me.  With a group of compassionate folks (who named themselves the “Emma Lazarus Society”) he was supporting a Haitian asylum seeker who had serious health challenges.  He wondered if the house on Jay Street was free.  So it was that All Souls welcomed Jozelaine as our newest next door neighbor, along with a care giver living in the upstairs apartment. 

Soon thereafter (there are plenty of “soon

thereafter-s” in the immigration justice community) I was contacted by immigration justice activists asking if I would write a letter of support on behalf of All Souls to benefit an asylum seeker from Honduras.  Fr. Bob was asked the same as was Reverend Steve Junkeit of First Congregational Church of Old Lyme (FCCOL).  Letters were writ and Jose was released to the care of “welcoming, caring, justice-seeking” congregations – FCCOL & All Souls. 

Some of you are aware of the arc of this story, but I wanted to put it all together for all of you with a bit of an update.

Led by All Souls’ intern Ann Kadlecek, 14 Souls committed to helping with Jose’s transition from Honduras, from five months in a MA detention center, and finally, to CT.  I first met Jose and a bevvy of supporters from Central and South America with him, at a dinner at FCCOL, where Jose is staying until permanent, low-cost housing is procured.  He is lovely, his story heart wrenching.  (I encourage you to read Rev. Junkeit’s sermon telling this story.  The link is below.)  Since that first meeting, the folks at FCCOL have jumped into action, as they do so beautifully.  They got Jose enrolled in an English language class and he’s been supported in many other ways by the congregation. 

We welcomed Jose to All Souls last week so that once he makes his move to New London he will know that there is a community that stands ready to support him.  In that letter of support I wrote to the judge, I said the following:

We stand ready to help with transportation, navigating the necessary appointments, medical needs, finances, and companionship. 

As well, there is a strong community of immigrants in this area and quite a few of them hail from Honduras.  We will facilitate this young man’s connection with this compassionate community.

As you consider [Jose’s] future, know that it will include the strong support of All Souls. 

Honestly, Dear Souls, what these strangers in a strange land need most from us is compassionate companionship.  They have experienced trauma on multiple levels and the reassurance of good people goes a long way toward claiming this strange land as “home.” Bonus if you speak even some Spanish or Creole – but if you do not, do not let that hold you back. 

In this Christmas season, let’s hold close the old beloved carols and equally important, let’s remedy the injustice at the root of the ancient story now playing out in modernity.  The country music artist, George Strait amends the old lyric and sings:  “Let there be not one stranger / To away in a manger …”   I hope you will join me with an “Amen.” 

If you are able to support Jose and Jozelaine (and yet another asylum seeker who we are supporting) please be in touch with Ann at: intern@allsouls.net or 203.606.4180

In this holiday season when our country and indeed the world is fraught with violence, injustice, and sorrow, may beauty, truth, and love rest upon your hearts.  May you take solace in the company of the many Souls who make their way to All Souls every Sunday determined to keep hope kindled.  You are joyfully called into beloved community.

Wishing you peace (and some holiday fun & sparkle!) with much Love, Carolyn

Listen or read Reverend Dr. Steve Junkeit’s sermon here: https://fccol.org/2019/11/11/november-10th-service/