Everyone eats; Everyone is clothed; Everyone has a safe and healthy habitat; and everyone is loved.
- from the Vision Statement of Rio Grande Borderland Ministries, Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande.
Our Partnership with Rio Grande Borderlands Ministry
Holy Spirit Episcopal Church is a Parish Partner of the Rio Grande Borderland Ministry (RGBM). Our partnership with RGBM is grounded in a covenant that pledges monetary support, prayer, and engagement through online learning, pilgrimages, and service projects related to border and migration ministry.
What is the Rio Grande Borderlands Ministry (RGBM)? RGBM is an established, collaborative ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande serving in the borderlands of New Mexico and Far West Texas. RGBM staff work to ensure that their migrant neighbors are embraced in the service of justice, the interest of dignity, and the spirit of love. The compassionate vision of RGBM is simple—to feed, shelter, and care for asylum seekers, unaccompanied minors, and indigenous persons on both sides of our border with Mexico. To learn more, check out the RGBM website at https://riograndeborderland.org/.
Why are we partnering with RGBM? As Christians, we have clear direction to help the desperate, to treat all people with respect, and to welcome those who seek shelter, food and refuge with dignity. The story of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt underpins our partnership with RGBM. Members of our parish explore this relationship in a presentation titled “Holy Family, Human Family." You can view the recording here. In partnering with the Rio Grande Borderland Ministries of the Episcopal Church, Holy Spirit Parish is saying, “Yes, these lives deserve our Christian pledge to Love Thy Neighbor.”
Holy Spirit's partnership with RGBM was featured in the Missoulian Faith and Values Section on February 1st. If you haven't read it, you can access the article, "Community of Faith: Support those Seeking Refuge," here.
Tell me more about the Rio Grande Borderland Ministries
Rio Grande Borderland Ministries (RGBM) is an established program of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande serving the borderlands of New Mexico and far West Texas. RGBM has been engaging with long-term systemic needs on the border for decades by working collaboratively to provide humanitarian support to vulnerable people in our border communities. RGBM staff help to ensure that their migrant neighbors are embraced in the service of justice, the interest of dignity, and the spirit of love. The compassionate response of RGBM is simple—to feed, shelter, and care for their neighbors on both sides of the border. The ministry supports shelters for vulnerable communities on both sides of the US/Mexico border, serving asylum seekers, unaccompanied minors, and indigenous persons in the border communities of Ojinaga, Juarez, and Palomas, Mexico. To learn more, check out their website at https://riograndeborderland.org/.
How you can help the Rio Grande Borderland Ministries
Holy Spirit’s parish partnership with Rio Grande Borderland Ministries is an opportunity to deepen our connection to the rest of the Episcopal Church and to become part of a sustainable effort to support the basic human needs of migrants on our southern border. The partnership is also an opportunity to reconnect with the stories that we learn in our church. In his blog post, RGBM Canon Lee Curtis observes that economic opportunity is no longer the primary driver of migration to the United States. Rather, most migrants come to our country seeking safety. Yes, safety. That reminds us of the Gospel of Matthew, where the Holy Family sought asylum in Egypt because Joseph and Mary feared for baby Jesus’ safety. Jesus was a child migrant. Jesus’ family were asylum seekers in pursuit of safety. Human migration is far older than the Jesus story. It is a phenomenon that is always born of desperation, and it often causes conflict. As Christians we have clear direction to help the desperate, to treat all people with respect, and to welcome with dignity all those who seek our shelter, food, and refuge. Our Baptismal Covenant instructs us to serve Christ, a child migrant, in all persons, to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being. Welcoming with dignity is the mission of RGBM and at the heart of Holy Spirit‘s Parish Partnership with RGBM. Here are some opportunities to learn about our Episcopal Church borderlands ministry and the reality of migration from people who live and work on the border every day:
- Subscribe to the biweekly video blog produced by the staff at RGBM. (https://riograndeborderland.org/videos)
- Sign up for the RGBM Community Call on the first Friday of each month. (https://riograndeborderland.org/volunteer)
- Share your hopes, dreams and creative ideas for the Holy Spirit/RGBM Parish Partnership with members of the Social Concerns Committee.
- Seriously consider participating in the Holy Spirit Parish Listening Pilgrimage in 2023. Our objective is to discern ways in which Holy Spirit Parish can support RGBM relief, advocacy and development ministries. A FAQs document is available here. To express interest or ask questions, contact Audrey Murray (612) 968-2108 or , or Clem Work (406) 544-8795 or . – Audrey Murray, Social Concerns Committee
Pilgrims seek dialogue, answers
Parishioners and clergy traveling to Texas and New Mexico along the U.S. – Mexico border later this month have some questions in mind — and they will be happy to seek answers to your questions as well. The pilgrimage, as it is called, is taking place at the invitation of The Episcopal Church’s Rio Grande Borderlands Ministry, based in El Paso. The purpose is to learn about the collaborative ministries of the Episcopal Church on the border, to understand the experience of migration from the perspective of migrants themselves, to deepen our understanding of what it means to welcome people who are different from ourselves, and thus to discern ways that Episcopalians in Montana can support RGBM relief, advocacy, and development ministries. The travelers from Missoula, Stevensville, Hamilton, and Helena will visit shelters on both sides of the border, talk to migrants and asylum-seekers, shelter workers, and border enforcement personnel, and familiarize themselves with the work of RGBM. Here are some questions for which they seek some answers:
- Who are the people who choose to make such a risky journey, uprooting families and leaving their past behind?
- What really goes on at the border? What are the people involved in the current story like?
- How can we provide sustaining support to the Rio Grande Borderlands Ministries?
- How we can engage others in this ministry, within our own parishes and across Montana?
- How do we develop relationships that can inform migration ministry in other circumstances and into the future?
Our call to welcome the stranger
I hope you have had an opportunity to watch the recording of RGBM’s first Borderland Learning Session, “The Flight to Egypt: The Holy Family and Biblical Witness to Migration.” You can watch the recording here. In it, Canon Lee Curtis interprets a revered biblical story as a desperate search for asylum. So, what is asylum? Where does it fit in the theology of the Episcopal Church? Here’s what Episcopal Migration Ministries says:
“Asylum is a human right. The concept of asylum is an ancient one, arising within many world faith traditions and later becoming part of countries’ legal codes. The Hebrew Bible names six cities of refuge; the New Testament quotes Jesus commending his followers to welcome the stranger, for in so doing, they welcome him. The Universal Declaration on Human Rights guarantees the right to seek asylum from persecution.
Asylum seekers flee persecution and travel to another country to seek safety and request asylum. To receive asylum in the U.S., they must prove their persecution occurred, and that it occurred due to the membership in a protected group, as defined by U.S. and international law. Seeking asylum in the U.S. is an incredibly long, complex, and fraught process, often taking years. Many asylum seekers are detained in jail-like settings during this process. When a person receives asylum in the U.S., they become an asylee and are eligible for a number of federal assistance programs, including those offered by EMM’s resettlement affiliates. In the United States, asylum protections and the right to ask for asylum have been restricted to nearly impossible standards through a variety of regulatory and policy changes. With our colleagues in the field and with a number of organizational partners, The Episcopal Church speaks out against these changes which send people back into danger, encourages Episcopalians to take action, and organizes and supports education, advocacy, and ministry efforts to protect asylum and support asylum seekers and asylees.” (https://episcopalmigrationministries.org/asylum/)
For me, the invitation to welcome the stranger is particularly powerful. Recently I’ve been thinking about why we are reluctant to welcome into our country people who seek safety and refuge. This is one of the things I plan to reflect on as I join other parishioners on a listening pilgrimage to the borderlands this spring. I invite you to join me in this reflection. Why are we sometimes reluctant to fully embrace the Episcopal Church’s theology of welcoming the stranger? – Audrey Murray, Social Concerns Committee
In just a few short weeks, our first pilgrimage to the borderlands will begin. It seems like it has taken such a long time for the pilgrimage to arrive, although it has been less than a year since we first talked about it. Perhaps it seems a long time because so much has gone on around us since we partnered with RGBM last July. The Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis says that we live in “hot-mess times” (Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations, February 7, 2022), and such times require us to answer the question, “Who are we to be?” At Holy Spirit we are living that question with courage and faith through our partnership with RGBM. We are to be people who learn, pray, and act to support those who seek refuge in our country. Here are a few ways you can help this month:
- LEARN: Visit the Hope Border Institute website (www.hopeborder.org) to learn more about people seeking refuge in the U.S. This website currently features asylum seekers’ responses to the question, “What led you to leave your home?” Some of the responses may surprise you.
- PRAY: During the month of March, please give thanks for our partnership with the RGBM community. Pray for our shared mission to ensure that our migrant neighbors are embraced in the service of justice, the interest of dignity, and the spirit of love. And, please, pray for the members of our diocesan community who will make a pilgrimage to the borderlands on March 7th and March 27th.
- ACT: Help us raise money for RGBM. On June 1st Holy Spirit will host a fundraiser for the Rio Grande Borderland Ministries. They need our help, and we need yours! Please contact Audrey Murray (612-968-2108; ) if you can lend a hand with set up, clean up, sign up, decorating, food, or any other task you would like to offer up. We are grateful for any and all assistance. Thank you so much! We sincerely appreciate your help. ‒ Audrey Murray, Social Concerns Committee