During its February meeting (in 2017), the Session engaged in a thoughtful discussion about how we at UPC can reach out with hospitality to the refugees in our community. The Session approved the resolution found below. In March (2017), the Adult Education Committee partnered with the Outreach Committee to offer three sessions discussing the We Choose Welcome Initiative. Through these discussions, the congregation continues to discern how the Spirit leads us to support refugees in our community. We invite you to join us in this effort!
Whereas, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and its predecessor denominations have consistently called the church to welcome refugees in the name of Jesus. [This call began when the 160th General Assembly (1948) of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America called for the resettlement of persons made refugees and displaced by World War II and continued through the 222nd General Assembly (2016) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) statement calling the church to “respond to the ancient biblical directive to provide for the stranger and the sojourner.”[i]]; and
Whereas we are now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record.
(An unprecedented 65.3 million people around the world have been forced from their homes. Among them are nearly 21.3 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. [ii]); and
Whereas some voices are calling us to abandon the very foundations of our biblical faith to welcome the stranger and to give safe haven to the refugee, and to set aside the values of compassion and hospitality that have marked our historic identity as a nation;
Be it resolved, the Session of University Presbyterian Church, meeting on this 16th day of February 2017, decries any policy that discriminates against refugees by nationality, race, ethnicity or religion,
And further, endorses the January 28, 2017 statement by the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which states “We stand ready to welcome our new neighbors, friends, and family of all faiths and nations,”[iii]
And further, accepts the December 1, 2015, challenge issued by the Rev. Gradye Parsons, former Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), asking congregations to take a photograph with a “We Choose Welcome” banner and send the photo to their public officials,[iv]
And further, encourages the congregation to implore those elected officials to embrace the values of compassion and hospitality essential to our identity as a nation.
Ways to Be Involved
Next Steps in UPC’s Refugees Support Efforts (We Choose Welcome)
Our congregation continues to discern the call to support refugees in our community. A task force has organized the following ways to be a part of UPC’s continuing We Choose Welcome initiative:
- Refugee Support Team: You may sign up for UPC’s Refugee Support Team – a list of volunteers to perform discrete jobs on an as-needed basis (g., providing transportation to a doctor’s appointment). The team will support the activities of Refugee Community Partnership (RCP), a local refugee support organization (refugeecommunitypartnership.org). You can also sign up online at www.upcch.org/welcome.
- Food Fest Saturday, July 27, 11:00 am – 2:00 pm: Come enjoy traditional foods prepared and served by local refugees from Burma, Congo, and Syria. Proceeds go to the Refugee Support Center in Carrboro to help the refugee community of Orange County. Prices from $5 – $8. Dine in or take out. United Church of Chapel Hill (1321 Martin Luther King Blvd, CH 27514). Visit the Refugee Support Center on Facebook or online at refugeesupportcenter.org to make a donation.
- Driving Opportunity #1: Refugee Community Partnership Summer Camp (at UPC). Dates: July 15-19. Time: 9:00 am-2:00 pm. Location: UPC.
- Driving Opportunity #2: Project Jumpstart (program for high school students thinking about their futures). Dates: August 12-16. Time: 10:00 am-2:00 pm. Location: UNC campus. Drivers are needed to pick up local high school students for drop-off at 10:00 am or pick-up at 2:00 pm. All of the students are in Chapel Hill-Carrboro. The request is from Refugee Community Partnership.
- Driving Opportunity #3: Boomerang Youth’s STEAM Camp (middle school students; not limited to refugee students). Dates: August 5-9 and August 12-16. Time: Will confirm, but last year the camp ran from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm. Several people from UPC drove a student to and from last year’s camp. UPC’s Local Outreach Committee is supporting the camp this year, and Boomerang has been able to add a second week of camp. https://boomerangyouth.org.
All are invited to join the effort. Contact Reid Chisholm at (919) 260-0992 or firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or interest in sharing your talent and time.