Guided by Isaiah 58:1-10, Jesus’ relational priority of the “least of these” is expressed by the Body of Christ through mercy toward our neighbors. The beauty of the Gospel is that it is the only story big enough to make sense of life’s complexity and simple enough to be expressed powerfully through tangible mercy toward neighbors. We endeavor not only to tell a beautiful story and respond to it in Spirit, but to live that story through merciful action.
Merciful Presence: Noticing the injustices around us and playing an active role in serving the victimized.
To see this vision become a reality, our ambition must be to humbly and tangibly extend the love of Christ, especially to the overlooked. Those who are systemically marginalized in North Brooklyn must find that in every expression of this church they are honored guests with reserved seats at the table. And, those captured by the Gospel story must go on telling that story by welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the prisoner, noticing the forgotten, and serving the orphan and widow in distress. This is a vision that speaks to the deepest longings of every New Yorker: A cosmic story to make sense of life, expressed in transcendent simplicity before our very eyes.
There are several ways to to practice merciful presence this season through our Justice and Mercy Partnerships.
Children of Promise
Children of Promise is an after-school program and summer day camp specifically designed to meet the needs, interests, and concerns of children left behind by parents serving time in prison. Their mission is to empower these children to break the cycle of intergenerational involvement in the criminal justice system.
Uni Project uses a series of custom-designed installations to bring learning opportunities to public spaces in New York City. Their pop-ups include a library on wheels that brings books to communities where kids are organically involved. Within the roaming library there are tools and tasks focused on developing spatial reasoning and math and problem solving skills. Uni Project also has an open-air science lab component.
Uni Project hosts pop-ups in Bushwick/Ridgewood, Bed-Stuy, Clinton Hill, Brownsville/East New York, South Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights/Dumbo. To get involved, fill out this automated form and volunteer coordinator Leah Kaplan will be in touch!
Rikers Debate Project
The Rikers Debate Project (RDP) teaches competitive debate skills — including communication, conflict resolution, and public citizenship — to students held in Rikers Island jail. A criminal record makes it hard to find a job, and communication skills are invaluable to overcoming this challenge. Volunteers do not need to have any previous debate experience to help facilitate these classes. During the weekend, you can either volunteer at the Rose M. Singer Center, the only jail on the island that houses female inmates, from 11:30am - 2:30pm or you can volunteer at the George R. Vierno Center from 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM. Once you sign up for a Saturday afternoon, the lead teacher of that course will email you a few days before with a brief packet on the decision for the week.
Over the past few weeks, we have read the reports of families crossing our border and being separated. Parents are being put into the criminal system and children are being sent to detention centers. While the executive order signed on June 20th ended this policy, there are still over 2,000 children separated from their parents, and there will continue to be more asylum-seeking families trying to enter our country who need help.
Below are some organizations on the front lines, ways to actually serve in NYC and closer to the border and ways to make your voice heard.
Organizations accepting donations
-Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project: Fighting against unjust deportation through legal aid, community building, and policy reform advocacy
-Catholic Charities of RGV: Providing care and support to refugee families and are in need of donations. Their site has an Amazon wish list as well as a list of items+ an address where to send them
-Cayuga Centers: Hosting the children who were brought to NYC, these centers have an Amazon Wishlist you can contribute through
-Immigrant Families Together: Raising money, one family at a time, to pay bond and reunite separated families
-LUPE Rio Grand Valley: Community organizers in the Rio Grande Valley, holding vigils and organizing action
-RAICES: Offering free and low-cost legal representation of families and unaccompanied minors at the border
-Texas Civil Rights Project: Offers policy advocacy and legal support at the border, working directly with families affected
-Together Rising: Fundraising and vetting organizations, helping to coordinate actions
-The Young Center: Serving as allies for unaccompanied migrant children, actively working on their behalf in their best interests and seeking family reunification
-Cayuga Centers: Contact the shelter that is hosting 239 children here in NYC who have been sent here away from their parents are in need of Spanish-speaking foster homes (718-860-1656) You do not have to be MAPP certified to fill this need. There is a shortened orientation available and you must pass a background check.
-New York City Councilman Mark Levine's office has put together a list of recommend organizations to contribute to and links to volunteer at the centers currently housing the separated children in NYC.
-The Florence Project: Volunteers needed in Arizona for legal aid, interpretation, medical, and admin.
-Texas Civil Rights Project: In need of people with paralegal/legal assistance experience who speak Spanish, Q'eqchi, or K'iche to help with intake in McAllen, TX. They are also looking for legal intake volunteers in Brownsville, Laredo, El Paso, and Alpine.
-Pray: We have a compassionate and just God who hears our prayers and honors our lament. Take time to pray for the families at the border - that they may be comforted and reunited. Pray for those on working with these families on the front lines- give them strength and wisdom. Pray for our policy and decision makers - that their hearts be moved to compassion.
-Call your representatives: Take a moment to remind your elected representatives that family reunification matters to you. Even if your representatives are already supporting family reunification, calling with thanks and encouragement is also crucial. The Stance app allows you to record your message in advance so you can clearly state your message. Think local (like the mayor) and request action for children brought here to be reunited with their families. You can also encourage family members in other states to contact their representatives.