Nuns on a Bus, Immigration Reform, and Seeing Our Neighbor

Pullen Church

Recently I was blessed to join my good friend David Anderson and his family for worship at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC.   I normally worship on Sunday with the church I am on staff on in Fayetteville, Diversity in Faith a Progressive Christian Alliance congregation.

Due to my work schedule (I serve bi-vocationally as a pastor) I was stuck in Chapel Hill over weekend.   When I arrived at Pullen it was such a blessing.

Pullen is known in Raleigh, NC for being an activist church that opens its doors to all without prejudice, while also speaking out against the many ways the southern culture of North Carolina’s capitol city often puts up barriers to those who are minorities.

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On their website, Pullen beautifully describes their vision:

“You are loved, You are enough.

All people are created in the image of God, an expansive love beyond humanity’s limits. We affirm that there are many paths to God and that no one person or religion holds all the truth. God’s revelation is ongoing, providing relevance and wisdom for society today.

Pullen Memorial Baptist Church is a community of people seeking to be more human knowing that we are created in the image of God. We are seekers with many questions embracing that we can transform and be transformed.

Our community welcomes all: The Certain and the Doubtful; The Excluded and the Included; People who are Able and People who are Challenged; Rich, Poor and In Between; Divorced, Partnered, Single and Widowed; Atheist, Agnostic, Buddhist, Catholic, Protestant, Islamic, Hindu, Jewish or Nothing; Heterosexual, Homosexual and Transgendered; African-American, Asian, Latino; Citizens and Guests.”

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They retain their Baptist heritage by embracing the idea of freedom key to the early radical Baptists who were my ancestors: Soul Freedom, the idea that we each stand accountable to God and can neither ride on other’s coat-tails or judge anyone but ourselves; Bible freedom, which means that we each are responsible to study Scriptures for ourselves and thus we need to respect and embrace that other believers will have very unique interpretations of Scripture which may differ from our own; church freedom, which says that the local church should be autonomous with neither government nor denomination dictating its ministry; and finally religious freedom which both means standing against any attempt to enforce one brand of Christianity on all and also cultivating a healthy respect for people of all faiths.

ImageThey also are in the forefront of the fight right now in North Carolina to stem the tide of racism, homophobia, and neglect of the poor and those with disabilities which are currently coming down from the statehouse.  As a part of this ministry, they have helped as sponsors of the Moral Monday movement.  (You might remember David Anderson sharing about his experience being jailed for his participation in that movement).

The Sunday I joined was a beautiful celebration where people from all walks of life, of all skin hues, both gay and straight, joined in worship as one family.  Perhaps most inspiring to me was its ecumenical approach.  The music was organized along the lines of what I would have expected at a mainline Baptist church.  Yet the sermon was a stirring talk by a Catholic nun, associated with nuns on a bus.

If you are not familiar with nuns on the bus, I’d encourage you to look into their work.

Their website provides the following outline of their mission:

There is still much to be done, and we hope you will continue to journey with us as we advocate for justice for immigrants and all people who struggle at the margins.

During this most recent bus trip, we traveled across the United States — 6,500 miles through 15 states — 53 events in 40 cities — and we were deeply touched by the outpouring of support for comprehensive immigration reform everywhere we went. We ask everyone to continue to press Congress to pass legislation that incorporates the values listed below.

We call for commonsense immigration reform that:

  • Ensures family unity
  • Protects the rights of immigrant workers
  • Acknowledges that our borders are already secure, with only minor changes needed
  • Speeds up processing of already-approved immigrants
  • Enhances the present diversity visa program
  • Provides a clear and direct pathway to citizenship for the 11 million people who are undocumented in the U.S.

Our message is clear: We need commonsense immigration policies that reflect our values, not our fears. Congress must act now!

Sister Simone Campbell gave the message and in it she directly confronts some of the issues of racism, xenophobia, and lack of care for the poor many southern states are facing, including my own state of North Carolina.

You can learn more about Sister Simone and hear her sermon at http://www.pullen.org/2013/07/14/sister-simone-campbell-on-neighborliness/

I would encourage you to examine her work and that of the “nuns on the bus”.  Their work with immigrant families is not reserved to the south, but speaks a powerful message to those of us here in the Dixie-belt.

And I’m not just whistling Dixie here.

Your progressive redneck preacher,

Micah

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