How I celebrated MLK day

For years I’ve felt awkward, bordering on guilty, that I pastor a Quaker church and work on MLK day. It seems wrong on multiple levels, like we are turning our backs on our history of social reform. But it also feels kinda weird and selfish to ask for another holiday, or to say, “I am so committed to justice that I must have a vacation day!!”

Being the behind sort of guy that I am, it wasn’t until I heard about it on NPR over lunch that I knew of President-elect Obama’s call for us to honor Martin Luther King Jr. by serving today. I like to think that what I do for my vocation is service…but what I did intentionally today was more reading and research about immigration issues. This seems to be an issue of justice that is being put right in our laps. For more background, here’s what I sent out to our church family last Thursday:

Hello everyone,

Newberg Friends founded and has partnered with the Newberg Latino
Friends Church for almost 30 years. Angel Diaz, their pastor, has
asked for our help over the next few Sundays after an incident that
occurred last Sunday.

Illegal immigration has been in the news often, and is a significant
issue in the Latino church. Angel regularly teaches the congregation
to obey the laws of this country, and to work toward obtaining legal
status. There are attenders who are not legal immigrants, however.
Last Sunday, a van from the department of immigration parked right
outside the church as the service ended. Angel (who is a legal
immigrant) and another member went out to try to talk with the
officials in the van. The van left without talking with them, but
simply circled the block and then returned. To the people in the
church, it felt like intimidation. No arrests or any type of contact
was made.

Regardless of our beliefs about this complicated issue, freedom to
worship is a fundamental right in our country. There are many other
avenues the department of immigration has to enforce the laws of our
land, including job sites and residences. Making it difficult for
Latinos to worship, in my opinion, goes too far.

Angel is concerned that many of his members will not feel safe
attending church. He asked if 4 or 5 anglos would be willing to be
present outside the church between 10 and 10:30 as people are arriving
for worship, and from 11:45 to 12:15 as people are leaving. The
purpose would be to encourage our Latino brothers and sisters, and if
immigration makes an appearance again, to politely ask if they would
allow people the freedom to worship without being hindered by our

I listened with several others in our Yearly Meeting today as Angel
told several stories about the difficulty people in his congregation
have had trying to follow the process the law outlines for legal
status. There are cases in the Newberg church that lawyers have led
through the correct legal process, yet families are still separated
(Newberg and Mexico) because our system is still subject to different
personal interpretations of the law by immigration officials. People
from our church and from our Yearly Meeting are contacting government
officials and other Christian organizations to find ways that we can
help those who can get legal status to do so, and to find ways to
educate and help our Latino brothers and sisters.

Would you please contact me if you are able to help? We would like a
maximum of five people who can be present on College St. for the next
three Sundays at least (1/18, 1/25, 2/1). PLEASE COORDINATE WITH ME,
AND DON’T JUST PLAN TO SHOW UP. Angel said that it could actually
cause many more problems to have too many people present; we want to
do everything we can to respect Angel’s wishes. Please send me an e-
mail or leave a message at the church ( or 503.538.8381
) if you can help. Give the date and the time (“A” for 10:00 to 10:30,
“B” for 11:45 to 12:15) that you are available.

I’m glad for the chance to be supportive to our Latino church, and
look forward to hearing from some of you.


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