We are here
The first week of October, the week that I began my tenure as the new Executive Director of MCC, began with World Communion Sunday. Begun in 1933 and endorsed by the National Council of Churches in 1940, it’s a day set aside to promote Christian unity and ecumenical cooperation. I hadn’t remembered that it was World Communion Sunday when I walked into church that morning, but when I looked up and saw the banner above the communion table, it seemed such a grace-filled blessing on the start of my service to an organization that got its start at the same time (1938) and has been working ever since to promote unity and ecumenism by searching for common ground on which to stand while working for the common good here in Maine.
The congregation rose to sing “Tawa Pano,” a Zimbabwean hymn that translates “We are here.” And as our voices repeated the refrain Tawa Pano, Tawa Pano, We are here, We are here, I was especially aware of the refugees and asylum seekers who were part of the congregation—from Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, and other distant homelands far, far away. We are here. We are here. For them, for me, this phrase is loaded with meaning. We are here, in a new place, where we don’t know the people, we don’t know the streets. We are here, unsure about how or if we will be welcomed, anxious about how we will make ends meet, what shape our new life will take, wondering if “here” will ever begin to feel like “home”?
The bible, someone wise once said, is a book written by refugees for refugees. In its stories we hear God speak again and again about how we are to treat the stranger, the foreigner, the alien in our midst. “Show your love for the stranger,” (Deuteronomy 10); “Love the stranger who dwells among you as you love yourself ,” (Leviticus 19); “Remember, you were once strangers in the land of Egypt, so you shall not wrong or oppress a stranger,” (Exodus 22). Thus, the member denominations and churches of the MCC are united in our commitment to stand with and for the refugees in our midst, as well as those elsewhere in the world fleeing their homelands seeking safety, peace, and welcome.
In recent months, the MCC has been speaking out in favor of asylum seekers receiving General Assistance benefits, speaking out against the vicious racist attack on a third-generation immigrant running for mayor in Lewiston, and we have been organizing meetings of groups currently working to meet the needs of refugees and asylum seekers so that Maine’s communities of faith can better respond to those needs and coordinate their efforts. I am excited to be a part of that work.
We are here. Won’t you join us?
Rev. Jane Field