“Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.” – Hebrews 12:3
On this Wednesday in Holy Week, we are reminded of the betrayal, assaults, and suffering that Jesus endured. As we look to the news headlines of the week, we also know the plight of countless innocent people in the world who are enduring hostility – millions who are seeking refuge and who surely must be weary from their pain and loss.
A new ministry partnership is bringing the Lehigh Valley refugee resettlement agency, Bethany Christian Services, in residence at Grace Episcopal Church in downtown Allentown – a local sign of hope for neighbors rebuilding their lives, and one that furthers a connection for refugee work with the Episcopal Church. Bethany will occupy the upstairs level of Grace, effective May 1, as their home base for case management and other refugee support.
For the many refugees making new homes in Allentown, we hope this partnership will increase the “great cloud of witnesses” offering tangible signs of compassion and care in the community.
Grace shares in a covenant relationship with Episcopal Church of the Mediator, which is home to the Refugee Community Center, a wellness and learning initiative for families settling in the center city area from Syria, Sudan, Eritrea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burma, and other countries. Members of Grace are already volunteering at the center, participating in special programs for refugees, and engaging in advocacy work.
“This partnership brings a tremendous opportunity for neighborhood mission,” said The Rev. Twila Smith, priest at Grace. “The church’s commitments to social justice and diversity, the collaborative relationship of Grace and Mediator, existing ministry and community partnerships, and the location of Grace in the heart of downtown make this fertile ground. God has given us many resources and calls us to share them with our neighbors. As we serve alongside Bethany, we are hopeful for the fruit this relationship can bear.”
Even as Bethany is preparing to move, they are hosting their first event at Grace today, the regional, “Quarterly Collaborative” meeting for organizations engaging in refugee resettlement support.
For Grace, it’s a beginning, too, yet it also continues a 150-year history of neighborhood mission. Bethany will join other ministry partners, including the weekly food pantry, operated by the Grace Community Foundation; Dress for Success, which helps women entering or re-entering the workforce; and Grace Montessori School.
“Recent cuts to refugee programs mean drastic reductions in the number of newcomers we can anticipate in the months ahead and fewer resources for families who are already here,” Smith said. “These are our parish neighbors. It is our hope that we will be able to show our love and support in new ways, for the many people in this area who have experienced the trauma of forced migration and resettlement. We are here to persevere with them.”
April 12, 2017