As we enter Labor Day Weekend, I hope that your summer has been full of rest, wonder, and joy. For those sticking around the city, I invite you to our Parish Service Project this Sunday, September 3, at 10 am in the Great Hall, sponsored by our new Faith in Action Task Force. In lieu of The Forum, we are partnering with Church World Service to host a “packing party,” when will assemble 100 Welcome Backpacks for refugees and asylum seekers new to our city and country. These backpacks are filled with personal essentials like blankets, tooth brushes, reusable water bottles, and more. Our amazing facilities team has just received the largest Amazon delivery in the history of St. Bart’s, and now all we need is your help!
I hope this will be a first step towards deepened support and engagement with a category of people that Jesus not only deeply cherished, but could count himself among at various points of his life. Indeed, Jesus came into this world homeless and on the move—born to teenage parents, fleeing from Herod’s maniacal infanticide, laid in a manger. Throughout the Bible, we see a consistent mandate to welcome strangers, love foreigners, and show kindness to our neighbors. For weary nomads, a water bottle, a blanket, and a smile from a stranger is very good news, indeed.
We can see the crisis all around us. The number of meals served out of St. Bart’s by Crossroads Community Services has doubled in the last year, as New York City has received more than 100,000 asylum seekers since spring 2022. Just last week, Governor Hochul declared a State of Emergency, and in August the nearby Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown East, which serves as the Arrival and Humanitarian Relief Center for refugees, reached full capacity, with quite literally no room at the inn. As we strive to imagine and support long-term, structural solutions, I hope you will join in our efforts to meet the urgency of now with the wideness of God’s mercy and radical welcome.
Can’t make it on Sunday? You can learn more, make a donation, or purchase a special edition t-shirt to support our mission at stbarts.org/backpacks. And, come back on September 10 for St. Bart’s Day, when we will include the Welcome Backpacks in our annual Blessing of the Backpacks, Briefcases, and Bags!