[St Andrew’s Episcopal Church - Seattle, Washington] Across the alley from our church, the four members of the Martínez family to whom St. Andrew’s has given shelter for the past twelve months will be moving on by the end of October. Their sponsor, Compass Housing Alliance, has provided excellent logistical and counseling support. The parents, Martín and Natividad, have both been thoroughly immersed in training and English language courses to equip them for the next phase of their lives. Their youngest son, Brandon, 15, will be a sophomore at Roosevelt high this fall and is on the football team. Martín Jr., 20, has just graduated from Everett Community College and begins this fall as a full-time student on scholarship at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, WA. He has also been working full-time this summer for a construction company and is saving up for college expenses as well as putting money into the bare-bones family budget.
Says Deacon Anne Novak, our early liaison with the Martínez family, “They have been wonderful occupants of Brighton House— very self-reliant, and have never asked for a single thing. I’ll be extremely sorry to see them go,” she says. Those of us who have had a small part in offering moral support and encouragement to them are humbled by their determination and resolve despite tremendous personal obstacles.
But this writeup is primarily about young Martín, whose outstanding achievements at Everett, and enrollment at EWU this fall are only part of this young man’s story and his keen sense of responsibility for his family, his fellow Latinos, and the larger community. In a recent extended conversation with him I learned that he helped organize a trip to Washington, D.C. this past June with some of his fellow students. Their purpose: to advocate in front of the White House for two days, for comprehensive immigration reform. On August 8 I interviewed Martín again at length about this trip and about his own future aspirations.
I should note that Martín is a “Dreamer,” the informal name for the granting of legal status to those who came at a young age across the border to the United States, and who have been in school here for at least five years. Two years ago President Obama established this category by executive order under the Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals Initiative (DACA). Martín qualified.
Q. Martín, while you were a student at Everett Community College you helped organize this trip. Who went, and how did you get there?
A. There were eight of us, and we drove in two cars. Together we raised all the money for our transportation expenses, sleeping in our cars en route across the country. We also paid for a pretty shabby apartment, sleeping there on the floor as well as the beds.
Q. Why did you go, and what did you want to accomplish?
A. As young Latinos now living and studying in the United States, we wanted to go in front of the place where the president lives, to create more awareness of the critical need for immigration reform. But I also can’t deny that on the way we enjoyed some sightseeing as we crossed the country for the first time, and I wondered later whether we might have done more than we did.
A. We were there with our placards for two days, for five hours each day. As we started protesting, several people gave us dirty looks. We listened to verbal abuse—“You’re not supposed to be in this country,” “Go home, wetback”, “You people take our jobs away”, “You don’t pay taxes”, and worse. It felt really bad to actually hear this face to face. But some other people gave us high fives and joined our protesting cause—especially college students. We even had over 80 people protesting with us. That felt really good.
Q. Did any of you visit the offices of Washington’s congressional representatives?
A. Yes, we visited the offices of Rep. Suzan DelBene (Dem., District 1), and Rep. Rick Larsen (Rep., District 2). Both representatives spoke personally with us.
Q. What was their response to your advocacy for immigration reform?
A. Rep. DelBene was very supportive; she understood the issue very well.
“Keep pushing for what you want”, she told us. And she reminded us that not only Latino immigrants needed our support, but also those from countries other than Latin America. However, after keeping us waiting for an hour, Rep. Larsen gave us only ten minutes. He told us our cause was useless, that the immigration situation was never going to change.
Q. In this issue of immigration as our country is currently facing it, are there moral or historical reasons why it’s important to you personally?
A. First, this affects me and my family personally. Secondly, immigration reform is basically a human rights issue. We immigrants are devalued as human beings; we are deprived of our human rights due to the lack of a social security number. Another thing regarding the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino”. It was Europeans who used the term Hispanic to designate us, giving it a colonial connotation. Latino is a better term; we ourselves began to use it in preference to Hispanic.
Q. How can we in the churches respond better to the issue of immigration reform?
A. First, understand the issue! Create awareness. Educate people. Also the churches can support or join community and other organizations that are supporting immigration reform.
Q. Martín, what are your own personal goals as you set off for Eastern Washington University as a full-time student?
A. First, to get my bachelor’s degree. My major will be business management and administration, with a minor in psychology. At Everett I was president of Mecha, a national student group advocating the rights of Latinos. At EWU my classes begin the last week in September. I’ve already contacted the Mecha chapter there, and they’ve asked me to be a leader in their group.
Q. Finally, what would you like to do now to continue furthering the cause of immigrant rights?
A. I have a dream: to organize a large event for immigration reform that actually places the students themselves in the leadership of the event, as opposed to just participating.
Thank you sincerely, Martín! It’s been a special privilege.
– The Rev. Canon Dick Gillett is a parishioner at St Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Seattle, Washington.
[Episcopal News Service] As the Church in Wales prepares to enable women to become bishops, Bishop Suffragan Gayle Harris of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts became the first female Anglican bishop to preside and preach in a Welsh cathedral.
“The church is not just enriched by women’s ordination, it’s more enabled and empowered by women’s presence,” she told Episcopal News Service during a telephone interview from the U.K. as she prepared for her historic participation in the 11 a.m. Eucharist service on Aug. 31 at St. Asaph Cathedral in Denbighshire, North Wales. “I see women bringing to the fore the desire that all people sit at the table of leadership, that all share in the benefits of the life of God. Nobody should be ignored or left out.”
Although the Church in Wales voted on Sept. 12, 2013, to allow women as bishops, it decided that church law would not be changed for one year to allow the Welsh bishops time to prepare a Code of Practice. The Church of England also made history when its General Synod, meeting last July, approved legislation to enable women to serve as bishops.
Harris’s visit came at the invitation of Diocese of St. Asaph Bishop Gregory Cameron, who said he’s been surprised at how long it has taken the Church in Wales to take the step to ordaining women as bishops.
“I’ve had significant experience of women bishops around the Anglican Communion, and their ministry is as natural and appropriate as our fundamental membership in the church, male and female,” he told ENS. “In fact, the women bishops I have known have been of exceptional ability and talent. It is precisely because women bishops are not new to the Communion that I’m delighted to have had the chance to invite Bishop Gayle Harris to join us, as we approach the date when women may be elected to the episcopate in Wales.”
But for Harris, the second African-American woman to be ordained a bishop in the Episcopal Church, her arrival in the U.K. didn’t go as smoothly as expected. The U.K. Border Force detained Harris for more than five hours and told her she would have to return to the U.S. even though she had the required paperwork and permissions, including from the Church in Wales and the Archbishop of York.
Despite the ordeal, Harris said that the border officers “were very polite, civil and courteous” and that once they’d discovered that her visit was legitimate, the deportation order was rescinded. “I know that the people at the airport were just trying to do their job,” she said, adding that the head officer of the U.K. Border Force offered her a personal apology for the detention being so long.
Harris was relieved to put the experience behind her and focus on the planned itinerary and upcoming celebrations.
Harris already had plans in place to visit the U.K. — to officiate at her goddaughter’s wedding — when she was invited to send a greeting to Crossing the Threshold, a conference celebrating the law change to enable women to become bishops.
She will attend the Sept. 4 conference in Cardiff and retired Bishop Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island will participate as a keynote speaker.
The Episcopal Church became the first Anglican Communion province to open the episcopate to women by an act of General Convention in 1976, although it would be another 13 years until the Rt. Rev. Barbara Harris – Bishop Gayle Harris’s predecessor in Massachusetts – is ordained as its first female bishop in 1989. Last July, the Episcopal Church celebrated 40 years since the first women were ordained as priests. Yet the majority of Anglican Communion provinces still do not ordain women as bishops.
“There are places where we may not see women ordained to the episcopacy in our lifetime or even in the next generation but I believe God can call whoever He wants to call; male or female, black or white,” said Harris. “Sometimes it is hard for us to hear and discern that call and that’s why it takes longer in some places than others.”
Bishop Gayle Harris was ordained to the priesthood in 1982 and elected as bishop suffragan of Massachusetts in 2002. That journey, she said, has had its ups and downs, but she has been sustained throughout by the presence of God.
During her sermon at St. Asaph’s Cathedral, Harris spoke about being a follower of Christ and explained that discipleship isn’t easy and involves personal cost.
As the first black woman to celebrate mass in an upstate New York church in the early ‘90s, Harris received various reactions, both positive and negative. “No one in that parish had ever seen a woman in that sanctuary, but they took the risk to call me as rector” of St. Luke and St. Simon Cyrene Church in Rochester, New York, she said.
“During the first Sunday I chose not to celebrate but to sit among them to get to know them,” she added. Some parishioners said that they were not going to come back, Harris said. Fortunately, most did, including some dissenting parishioners who later admitted “it was not as bad as they had expected.”
“What’s important is the presence of God,” Harris said. “I am first and foremost created in the image of God. No one can deny that is my identity. But all of my experience of negative response is not over. I have been held as incompetent because of who I am as a black woman. That continues. I still think that this world has to deal with the difference of skin color. We keep bypassing that issue. As a black woman, sometimes I have to ask is it because I am a woman but most of the time it is because I am black and a woman. The race issue has not been dealt with.”
Harris said she is grateful to Cameron for his invitation to St. Asaph’s. “It says a lot about him and how gracious he is. But I see this as another opportunity to engage and encounter the other,” she said. “I believe God is in this moment.”
– Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.