Although my official work as Pastor of Public Witness started January 1, I’ve had several opportunities to represent Lakeshore’s commitments to justice, mercy and humility in December. I spent a week in Bethlehem with the gathered Christian community from Palestine and 29 other countries. We prayed, worshiped and strategized how to manifest the love of God in the midst of harsh realities in the Holy Land and in all our lands. The Palestinian community was grateful for our presence and solidarity in their struggle, even as we all committed to engage in joint struggle for God’s Kingdom in all our communities.
I also was able to stand with two immigrant families in December as they beseeched Governor Newsom to end the prison to detention to deportation pipeline, creating an unjust system of double punishment for immigrants and refugees. On Tuesday, December 17, I engaged in civil disobedience on behalf of Tith Ton, a Cambodian refugee who, upon receiving parole, was immediately detained by ICE and taken to a detention cell. I joined with seven other faith leaders to block the driveway to ICE’s regional headquarters in San Francisco. This action was symbolic in that Governor Newsom has the power to block ICE from transferring released prisoners to ICE jails. To learn more about Tith’s situation, why I engaged in civil disobedience, and my experience standing with his community, put “my faith calls for sanctuary for immigrants in state prison too” in your search engine. Here is the link.
On December 19, I travelled to Sacramento to stand with the family of Charles Joseph, another man who was released from state prison only to be taken into custody by ICE. Several Lakeshorians have participated in the #BringCharlesHome campaign, signing a petition for his pardon – the only legal means available for him to stay in the U.S. with his family. Lakeshore wrote a letter on his behalf and Alice Butler and I spoke with State Senator Bradford in November, who also sent a letter to Governor Newsom arguing for a pardon for Charles. We delivered thousands of signatures, dozens of letters from politicians, organizations and congregations, and lit Advent candles of hope, peace, joy and love outside Newsom’s office.
I am so grateful for these opportunities to represent Lakeshore in the community and in the Holy Land. The power of the Advent and Christmas seasons, so meaningful in our congregation, ripples out into the larger community and world as we work together, worship together and witness together. I look forward to the ways in which we will engage in Public Witness together in 2020!