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Position of Silence on Immigrant Family Separation by the Association of Theological Schools 


Dear Iliff Community

Dean Lee and I have just returned from the Centennial Biennial meeting of the Association of Theological Schools that was held downtown here in Denver. ATS is an association of theological schools representing a wide arc of theological orientations and identities. In the morning session of the last day, ATS members voted not to address the current crisis at the US border. The motion was presented by the deans of he African American, Hispanic, and Asian work groups. Well in advance of the meeting, I was asked to offer the invocation at the closing banquet. Late today, I edited my prayer to acknowledge the position of silence voted in by a majority of the membership. I share the full text here:

O Holy One,

Source of imagination and creativity, which we call wisdom, we give you thanks for this day…all of which is a gift 100 years in the constant state of becoming.  We are mindful that you have entrusted us with the work of creating and sustaining institutions that carry the mantle of being stewards of the call you place within the hearts of people.  Let us feel again the fullness and the joy of this our work.  Let these callings within our students inform who we become.

As we celebrate the marker of this centennial, let us remember once again, that we spend the greatest share of our lives in the in-between spaces between the now and not yet.  This week we have looked behind us and reflected on our legacy.  And we have turned our faces to the horizon, “those hills from whence our help comes.”  We recall our courageous moments, as well as those times when we have been silent.  We remember having to face our complacency as compared to transcending moments of faithfulness.  You invite our minds and the wisdom of our hearts toward thoughtful action.  You call us to see the full humanity of the created order and give us the tools to deepen ourselves and expand our students as agents of hope.  You hold us in deep regard, so much so that you even ask us to own the ways we have yet to become.

This evening, create a new openness for us to stand in this new in-between moment.  If our work together serves any purpose, holds any meaning, may it affirm again, that love is the core of our beings and is expressed in a myriad of relationships and through the students we offer to the world.  May this love have the power to surround us and agitate us.  This gift is not confined only to the span of the life we have lived or the 100 years of our shared life together.  But as essence, connects us across time in all situations and circumstances. 

So tonight, let us be extraordinarily mindful that the work in all of our in-between days, is in creating possibility and welcome for an infinite number of generations to come.  We will be gone.  But may the spirit of our mindfulness tonight not be diminished.  May it be sensed by those who receive it as an essence that defies time and is heard as, “Welcome, we have been expecting you.” Gracious God, as you have from the beginning, open the doors into the next moment that we may again know the essence of our work in the many new faces, forms, issues, and contentions in which it will reside. 

May this food and the relationships around our tables, serve to enrich our legacy and strengthen all that we have yet to become.  For all of this, we give thanks.  Amen.

As I was coming home thinking of what I would share from this experience. I remembered a blessing I was asked to prepare for another organization I was active in years ago. InterFaith Works of Central New York was engaged in refugee resettlement and created a Center for New Americans that offered welcoming, resources, advocacy, and a safe place. The text continues to reflect my thoughts about immigration and the gifts in receiving the stranger. I offer it as well.

May we begin by imagining the sacred human face and unique identity and worth of persons at our country’s borders before it is obscured from view by policies and politics.

Blessing of the Center for New Americans

InterFaih Works of Central New York

December 5, 2005

Eternal Source of every human hope, whose love and care have touched us all, we give you thanks for this day when once again we are the recipients of overwhelming goodness.  We are grateful for this place that we name the Center for New Americans.  On this day, open us through your spirit of loving and compassionate wisdom to feel the human dimensions of this space.

We are all transient people.  In all times, we have been called to go to new places where we find ourselves dependent on the hospitality of strangers.  We begin this blessing by all of us remembering what it means to be unknown.  We are grateful that each person is given the indelible gift of a name and an identity.  Even when powers attempt to take these identities away, they still exist.  Out of our own times of being unknown, we are moved to create home places and communities where the stranger is soon friend.  Alienation and distance are overcome.  May our hospitality embodied by this place begin on common ground with all people who enter here…that all persons at sometime or another, regardless of geography or circumstance, can feel unknown and in need of life giving community.

May this Center be a gateway of entry and welcome.  May it be a home place for the entire human family.  Bless this Center…

…as a place where human relationship is of primary importance.

…as a place where the stranger is welcomed and known.

…as a  place where our entire community can feel the satisfaction of opening its hearts and minds through engaging in new relationships.

Make us ever aware that we are stewards of these surroundings.  As stewards we do not own it, but are entrusted with its care and the nurturing of its environment.  Bless those whose life calling is to work and volunteer here.  May these workers feel the power of your blessing and may it form faithfulness and a deepened understanding of what it means to be just and generous keepers of this portal of new beginnings.  May all of our lives be lived consistently with the statement of welcome that is intended in this Center’s very design. That all who move through here will know our deepest love and respect. 

In this way, may we make known that the richest blessing of all is born in the faces and experiences of those who come in need but who also come among us with so much to share.  For the real blessing to us and to this place comes in the form of the stranger who knocks at the door.  The blessing is received with our greeting, “welcome in.”  It is the stranger now friend that enriches the place we all call home. 

For this occasion, and all the relationships that have yet to bless us, we give thanks.

Amen.

May hospitality prevail in our thinking and practice,

Rev. Dr. Tom Wolfe