Local church offers support to immigrants following ban
Those driving past the All Saints Episcopal Church located off of Abbot Road might notice a politically relevant message on the church’s sign. The church has taken it upon itself to make both immigrants and U.S. natives know they are welcome within its walls.
“Of course we welcome immigrants we’re Christians!” is posted on the church’s sign in response to President Donald Trump’s recent executive order regarding immigrants entering the United States.
According to the White House website, the executive order was put in place “to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States."
Kit Carlson is a pastor at All Saints and said she thought posting this message to the public was important because it echoed messages from the Bible.
“That is through the Old Testament and the New Testament alike,” Carlson said. “There are calls to, in the Old Testament, welcome the stranger and the alien in your land and treat them as you would treat your neighbor.”
Carlson explained that because of the New Testament, they feel as if welcoming a stranger equates to welcoming Jesus. The church decided to display that message on its sign.
“I think we provide a spiritual grounding place for people who are looking for what to do right now,” she said.
The sign has brought in newcomers, Carlson said, just as she intended.
“Somebody came and worshipped with us on Sunday, and they wrote on their visitor card, ‘We’ve been looking at your sign for years,’” she said. “I guess they finally turned in.”
With the anxiety Carlson has observed following the election and inauguration, she said she believes that, as church people, a spiritual grounding is what will sustain people through more than just the first few weeks, but for the long haul.
Carlson noted that faith communities across the board, no matter their political or religious traditions, aim to work particularly with refugees and immigrants.
“I was signatory on a letter that 1,200 different religious leaders signed from all across the spectrum,” she said. “That said our traditions all say that we are to care for the less fortunate, and we believe that ministry to refugees is a crucial part of that.”
The church has been working with the All Faith Alliance for Refugees, or AFAR, since it started last spring. AFAR is a collection of congregations from Greater Lansing that stand together to support refugees and immigrants.
It was after Carlson’s Thanksgiving sermon that Alice Townley, parish associate at the The Presbyterian Church of Okemos, and others began their effort to organize what is now AFAR.
In light of the recent executive order, AFAR held a meeting about one week ago and has decided to hold a prayer vigil on President’s Day to offer their support for refugees and immigrants. Townley said they want the prayer vigil to be inclusive and welcoming.
“We hope that it will be multi-lingual and interfaith as well," Townley said. “We hope that we can gather the community and just pray and be supportive as an interfaith community and be bodily present."
The vigil will take place on President's Day, Feb. 20, at 5 p.m. at the Islamic Center of East Lansing.