Last Friday, my day in the office started with sharing words of blessing, encouragement, and welcome with the students in the New Neighbors English Language Learners program that Christ Church hosts and is run by a great local organization, the Campagna Center. They have 170 adult students this year, taking classes 3 mornings a week, along with a number of children in their nursery and preschool programs. The students come from many countries – Honduras, Japan, Morocco, Spain, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, South Korea, and Mexico – to name a few. Most are recent arrivals, with others have been here for 15 years. These people come from all walks of life. Some had careers in engineering, teaching, or the medical field, while others were stay-at-home mothers. Each one of them has left the familiar to come to the United States and has found a new home here, where life is safe and they enjoy more freedoms than back at home.

In my words of encouragement to them, I told them that Christ Church welcomes them and is proud of them, their work, their study to learn English. I told them that we are honored to host them at the church. I also told them that we pray for them, especially with the rising tide of hate and hateful speech regarding those who are or who look Muslim. We pray for our Muslim brothers and sisters, as much as we pray for our Jewish brothers and sisters, our Hindu brothers and sisters, our Buddhist brothers and sisters, and even for our brothers and sisters without a faith tradition. We pray for all our brothers and sisters because, as Christians, we see each person as a child of God and as deserving of the same respect and dignity that we offer to those we know closely.

In my prayer practice, each morning I pray for safety and protection for me and my family and I give thanks to God for that each evening. I have added in prayers for safety our Muslim brothers and sisters as I pray my prayers.

As Advent draws to a close and Christmas is at the door, we are in the season of refugees. The Holy Family, as Matthew’s Gospel account tells the story, were refugees fleeing the arbitrary and callous actions of a ruler who abused his power. We who call ourselves Christians are invited to see the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, in each refugee family. Pray that we seek to meet the needs of those who come seeking a refuge, safety, and a new start.

Merry Christmas. Prayers for safety, new learnings, and new growth for each of us in the new year.

To see the fall newsletter for New Neighbors, written by the students, click here.