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Co-Presidents' Monthly Column

September 2018          

A LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT

It was hot, over 100 degrees on most days, but it was a dry heat as people often say as if to make it seem somehow cooler. Our summer road trip started in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We headed south, and ended in Big Bend National Park, located in West Texas. The park is named for the bend in the Rio Grande River which forms its southern-most border. We traversed desert, mountains, some areas lush with splendid plant life, and other areas barren and beautiful. We hiked in winding canyons and atop rocky precipices. The sky was an intense shade of blue. At night we could see millions of stars. It was truly restorative.

Being on the border near Mexico led me to reflect on how for generations people have gone back and forth between countries for work, or to visit friends and family, to conduct business, or to seek a better life for them-selves and their children. I thought about how animals don’t understand borders and migrate across them as part of their natural and necessary movements. Each time we were stopped by the Border Patrol - and it was three times in a week - I thought about how much freedom of movement I have as a privileged White woman in this country, and about how different the experience would have been as a Black or Brown person. The smiling officer’s asking seemingly innocuous questions – “Where have you been?” and “Where are you going?” and “Are you U.S. citizens?” - as a large dog was circling our car, would have felt much different.

As I surveyed the rugged, harsh, and utterly unforgiving scenery at that border, I thought about how determined and desperate people have to be to attempt to cross it. That the immigrant’s journey in and of itself a test of human will and strength, is often met with inhumane behavior once on U.S. soil, defies explanation. At the same time, there are many people – including All Souls Congregants - who are rising up to object and work tirelessly every day to right such wrongs. There is hope.

On Sunday, August 5, All Souls New London took a step to put our Unitarian Universalist Principles into action and voted to become a sanctuary congregation. In so doing, we upheld two definitions of sanctuary, a holy place, and a place of refuge or safety. The doors to our sacred space are now open to the possibility of providing shelter for someone who needs time to secure their right to due process under the law. Now the real work begins, and as our friends from sibling congregations have counseled, it is a team effort.

We have already demonstrated that “a small group of thoughtful, com-mitted people can change the world.” My gratitude to the Sanctuary Task Force for their diligence, guidance, and thoughtful, respectful process. I recognize that there are questions remaining and concerns to be addressed, all of which will happen as we continue on this journey. But for now, let’s celebrate this historic step that we have taken together.

With gratitude, love, and hope,

Laurel Holmes

Co-President