Sanctuary... a First Amendment Issue

So there is a movement that has been spreading across this country - it takes various forms - but generally it seems to be in reaction to the election of Donald Trump as president, and some of the commitments he made on the campaign trail... specifically his commitments to crack down on our immigrant neighbors who don't have their paperwork order to be in this country legally.

Cities, school districts, counties, states and churches are organizing to #resist this crackdown from the Trump administration, under the common language of "sanctuary."  You can find a helpful outline of the past and present of the sanctuary movement here: 

The First United Methodist Church of Eugene has decided to participate in the sanctuary movement, and is working with some amazing local partners here in Eugene in our common fight to help Eugene be a safe and welcoming place for all people.  

I think there is a compelling case to be made, that our churches serving as sanctuaries for people who fear they or their loved one's might be deported, gets to the core of how people in the United States have articulated their religious values.  The First Amendment is an important statement of those values, and there we read "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." 

Providing sanctuary to people in fear, is a beautiful example of exercising our religion.  

So recently we gathered during the public comment period of the Lane County Board of Commissioners meeting to express our hope that our commissioners might take steps to declare Lane County to be a safe place for our immigrant neighbors.  Everyone was given 3 minutes to speak.  Here are my remarks from that morning:

Good morning Commissioners.

My name is Rev. Adam Briddell.  I serve the First United Methodist Church of Eugene, at the corner of 14th and Olive streets.

I live at 1100 Brotherton Avenue, in the Santa Clara neighborhood.  Commissioner Bozieivich thank you for your service.  

I have had a chance to attend a meeting of the Equity and Access Advisory Board and hear about their work on the proposed inclusivity resolution.

The safety of our immigrant brothers and sisters is of deep concern to our community.  We have been working with local partners, non profits and attorneys.  And we have been working with leaders in our denomination - we are a global connection, and here in the United States we claim some 7 million members, and more than 30,000 churches.

Our church is counted among those churches willing to provide sanctuary to our immigrant brothers and sisters who fear they may be deported.  

It was a hard decision, but it didn’t take too long.  Because not only in my faith tradition, but in so many faith traditions, hospitality is an un-compromised value.  

That does not mean hospitality is easy.  

Hospitality is often hard.  Hospitality is often risky.  After hanging up a banner welcoming immigrants and refugees, our church was caught up in the wave of swastika graffiti in Eugene.

I believe you have all heard from members of our faith community, who live in each of your districts, and who strongly support the adoption of a strong inclusivity resolution, if not an ordinance, here in Lane County. 

County staff have sent me the most recent draft of the Inclusion Resolution.  It is encouraging. But it has a ways to go.  

We hope you will take on this challenge of hospitality - we hope you will make a radical, risky declaration that Lane County is a safe place for all people, regardless of whether they have their immigration paperwork in order.  And I hope you will take that step confident - that your community stands behind you.  We can’t wait to stand behind you.  

Life is short, friends.  We have the power and opportunity to do something courageous, for vulnerable people.  

Thank you in advance, for your courage, and for the opportunity to speak here.
~ Rev. Adam Briddell, June 13, 2017

The Restoration Imperative

Do you feel like you NEED a vacation?  

Like yesterday.

I’m going to come back to that… 

Our family moved to Oregon from Washington, DC 2 years ago.  We have fallen in love with Eugene - we have three kids - and it took us just a couple of seconds to agree that this is a community that want to be a part of - a community that we want to shape us.  

And we have met people who care passionately about the environment.  People who care passionately about serving our unhoused neighbors.  We have met people who are passionate about the arts.  Amazing musicians, and writers.  

Through this Restore adventure, we have had a chance to bring these people together.  We been experiencing amazing music.  We have been feasting together.  We have been restoring our selves, and each other.  And I want to give you some really practical suggestions to create the space to recharge - to consistently create that space.

The pace of our lives can be daunting.  Space to recharge and restore is so important.  And not every place we enjoy is restorative.  

I like to gather at Autzen stadium.  I like to gather at Killer Burger.  Because I like to gather at Killer Burger, I also like to gather at the gym.  But I need more than that… our tradition speaks of a peace that passes all understanding… that is what I am hungry for… that sounds like restoration to me.  Right now, in my life, I could use more “peace that passes all understanding.”

Now this is one of the most interesting stories in the Gospel of Luke - listen to this - I think there is a word for each of us here: 

One day Jesus got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side of the lake.’ So they put out, and while they were sailing he fell asleep. A gale swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger. They went to him and woke him up, shouting, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?’

So with my three kids, I can relate deeply to this Gospel story… disciples being tossed about in the waves…

The waves are crashing.  The boat is filling up with water.  And Jesus speaks a word - peace - and there is a calm.  Peace, be still.  When storms rage in our lives, what would YOU give for calm, for peace?

In Jesus ministry we see a path - a way of being - that can create some space for peace.  Recently I have been more intentional about cultivating some peace, and calm in my world.  I am going to have a plan.  My plan comes from Henri Nouwen.  Nouwen was a Catholic priest.  He died a few years ago, but his three movements of the spiritual life are such a great way to be intentional about peace, and calm in our lives.  

His three movements are - 

1) the movement from loneliness, to solitude;

2) the movement from hostility, to hospitality; and

3) the movement from illusion, to prayer

That first movement, from loneliness, to solitude… maybe you are familiar with loneliness, or maybe you reacted to that the way I reacted to it when the first time I heard it - LONELINESS?   I am constantly bombarded.  By my devices.  By email, phone and social media.   I’m occupied by the responsibilities of my family, by the responsibilities of my job.  Good grief - LONELY???  Of all the challenges that vex me, LONELINESS is not one of them.  

And Nouwen would have us to understand, THAT is a problem.

Our experience of loneliness is rooted in the way each of us is created in God’s image - our own particularity - there is never another you - only you are you.  For all we share with our neighbors, for all the ways we are more alike than we are different - we all have a you’ness - that is unlike anyone else’s you’ness.  

And in a fundamental way - that is where our ability to be lonely comes from.  There IS a part of us that is unlike any other - there is a part of us that no one - not our parents not our best friends, not our spouses or significant others will ever understand.  

The only one who understands it, is the one who created it.  And so it is that our sense of our own particularity - our loneliness - that points the way to a deeper relationship with God.  

Now if you are a single person - you can probably make some changes to your rhythm if need be, to create some space for solitude.  Same for couples.  But for parents - solitude can be tricky - so those of you with children - think about this as a gift you can give your partner - a gift you can exchange with your partner - help each other find time and space for solitude.  

Solitude allows us to DISCONNECT, in order to CONNECT to God.   And I believe you will find that practice leads you into the next movement.  The next movement is the movement from hostility to hospitality. 

No question that as far as our tradition is concerned, hospitality is pretty un-compromised value.  In the Hebrew Scriptures we read:

“The foreigner who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt…”.   

In the New Testament we read:

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

In our tradition, the RESPONSIBILITY, and OPPORTUNITY, of hospitality looms large.  The responsibility, and opportunity of hospitality looms large, in light of the behavior of our new administration.  Nouwen would have us move from hostility to hospitality - while the Trump administration seems STUCK in hostility.  Nowhere in scripture, nowhere in Jesus ministry, do you find “America First.”  In this time, perhaps more so than at any other time in our lives - we are called to model hospitality.  

We are in conversations now about what it would mean for us to be a sanctuary community - if you are interested in learning more about that - the kind of dangers involved - and why I believe they may be worth it - we want to hear from you.  We can model the move, from hostility - to hospitality.

Loneliness to solitude.

Hostility to hospitality.

And then Nouwen’s third movement - from illusion, to prayer.

The illusion that Nouwen is most interested in dispelling: is the illusion that our lives belong to us.  For Nouwen, there is no more radical declaration that our lives are not our own - than prayer.  Prayer is a way of searching beyond our selves.   Prayer is the antidote to the illusion that our lives belong to us.  

As we ready ourselves - steady ourselves - for the storms we may face in the coming days, weeks, months and years - we are in need of a movement that casts off the illusion that our lives or anyone else's life, is ours.  Rather all lives are a gift - all lives are of sacred worth - and all can seek a deeper relationship with God through prayer.  

A deeper relationship that can be found in solitude - a solitude that creates space for hospitality.  

That is the kind of order for a life, that might lead us to some peace, and calm.  I believe it is the kind of order that Jesus modeled for us in his ministry.  and i believe it is the kind of order that stands a chance - stands a chance of equipping us for the trials that await.  

That is your homework - maybe you can’t take a vacation - but find some solitude - and in that solitude may your life be enriched by hospitality and prayer.