Dear Grace Family,
Last Saturday your generosity amazed me when I pulled into the driveway at Church of the Incarnation to find about a dozen Grace Church folks with members if St. Paul’s Bergen and Church of the Incarnation putting together furniture, hooking up computers, unloading a U-Haul with donated furniture, painting and cleaning up the rectory to prepare for the arrival of six guests who will stay at Incarnation temporarily when they are released on March 1 from a detention center for immigrants and asylum seekers.
The three Episcopal Churches in Jersey City have been intentional about sharing ministries and strategizing for mission in our city together for several years now, but the work we are undertaking together to house people with no family nearby but us is entirely new. The irony is not lost on me that while our country is ever more divided, the Episcopal Churches in Jersey City have become closer than they have ever been in living memory.
I’ve been thinking about two sayings this week. My Uncle came for a visit and reminded me that “May you live in interesting times.” is purported to be a Chinese curse. Nationally, these are in fact very interesting times; so interesting I may be regressing. When I read the news something my childhood hero Fred Rogers said keeps coming to mind. He reported, "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
If you’re old enough to know Mr. Rogers you probably also know he was a Methodist minister who preached to kids every week on PBS without ever preaching at all. I didn’t go to church as a child and was mystified by his kindness which surprised and comforted me. It wasn’t until I was an adult and in church a good long while that I figured out that Fred Rogers kindness was Jesus at work in him.
Somewhere in the Elizabeth Detention Center this morning are six people who have been treated like criminals for maybe weeks, months or years even though they are just people who came to this country in search of a safe place to live and a better future. Theirs have been interesting times and their experience so far may have left them feeling afraid and helpless.
Imagine how surprised they’ll be when they arrive at their shared home on March 1st and later when they meet you- the helpers- the shelter in the storm, the hands and feet of Jesus.
Maybe Christ is even more present in these interesting times.