On October 29, over 70 members of North Raleigh UMC gathered for the first in a series of “Sacred Conversations.” Sacred Conversations are events created to provide time and space for holy conversations on theological, social, political, and cultural questions and challenges. Because the topics of these conversations can often be divisive, the events have been intentionally designed to be a space for listening and learning rather than debate and judgment.
The first of these events was focused on the topic of immigration. Jennie Belle, a community organizer with Church World Service, discussed her work with immigrants and refugees in North Carolina and across the country. She shared about the challenges refugees face coming to this country, how communities suffer after an immigration raid, and the reasons that churches across the country are opening their doors as sanctuaries for immigrants at risk for deportation. Belle states, “As we examine together issues related to United States law and policy, our first responsibility will always be to examine Christian public witness and imagine appropriate responses for our churches as we strive to be disciples of Jesus Christ together.”
Immigration has been and continues to be at the forefront of our national debate. The pastors of North Raleigh UMC hoped that the event would advance truth-telling and public witness, as well as increase unity and develop a shared purpose for the benefit of the community. Rev. Alan Felton, executive pastor of the church, says, “Our goal is to welcome many voices into dialogue with one another. With Sacred Conversations, we are creating a space in our congregations to offer welcome for those often ignored or overlooked and to hear them and be able to ask questions.”
Sacred Conversations allows an opportunity for Christians who may be divided over certain issues to engage in respectful dialogue and useful learning so that the Body of Christ might be strengthened through increased understanding and trust. Belle says, “I think that events like these are so crucial for the church to host right now and these conversations are both sacred and timely. People migrate today for the very same reasons that people migrated in our Scriptures. We must see them and ourselves in these stories. What kind of a community do we want to be? How can we better welcome those who are immigrants?” The first of many Sacred Conversations answered began to answer those questions.
North Raleigh will have another Sacred Conversation on Jan. 28. The topic will be “A Way Forward.” Belle is happy to work with churches interested in hosting similar events on immigration.
Community Organizer, Immigration and Refugee Program
110 Maryland Avenue NE, Suite 110
Washington, DC 20002