Gene Locke, Peace, Justice & Inclusion Division
Fifty years ago I sat in a seminary class on “The Ethics of Jesus” only to discover that there is no such thing. Jesus was focused on ethical action, not thought experiments. He sat at table with all the wrong people – an act symbolizing his gospel of radical inclusion. In the parable of the great banquet, the king commands, when too many of the right people made excuses to avoid his invitation: “Bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame. Go out into the highways and byways and compel them to come in.” There is a place for every one born at God’s table.
There is plenty of room at the table – if we choose welcome, not fear. Giving a ride to her ICE appointment to a young mother who journeyed from Central America to the United States so that her two little daughters could grow up in safety. Meeting the hostility asylum-seekers faced at the border with our hospitality by offering food and water and coats and blankets as they ride the Greyhound bus from the border for their destination with family or sponsors. Supporting the Charlottesville Freedom Bail Bond Fund so that undocumented family bread winners arrested for driving without a license can be reunited with their families rather than being sent to a detention center far away. There is room at our table for migrants, those seeking asylum from violence, for refugees from war-torn countries, if we choose welcome, not fear.
Some may argue, but there’s not room for everybody at the table. Surely there are limits! Within the concrete particulars of time and place in today’s world, perhaps not at one particular table. But in God’s economy, there is room at some table at some place somewhere, if we are guided by the mercy and justice of God in figuring out how to distribute the abundant resources of the whole to assist the parts, if we choose welcome, not fear.
So how does WPC make room at its table? Not only through our benevolence giving, but literally, by building homes through Habitat, offering shelter on cold nights for the homeless through PACEM, working to sustain our planet home by the efforts of the Green Team, advocating for affordable housing and driver’s licenses for the undocumented through IMPACT, working for racial justice in Charlottesville through dialogue and education, supporting legal assistance to unaccompanied minors and parents separated from their children through LAJC, supporting Sin Barreras as it helps the immigrant community thrive, providing education and advocacy to protect our immigrant neighbors from discrimination, profiling, and arbitrary detention and deportation, through participation in the Charlottesville Immigrant Resource and Advocacy Coalition. Protecting Maria, an indigenous woman from Guatemala whose home was set on fire, with her family in it, by gangs that wanted her land, in sanctuary, and safety at Wesley UMC. At WPC, we choose welcome, not fear.
And that’s not all. WPC supports more programs that make room at the table: the annual CROP walk, Emergency Food Bank, the Gleaning program, and the Presbyterian Food Offering; global health through the Prosami program; standing with the LBGTQ community at the Pride Festival and sponsoring the conference on Caring for Transgender Persons this time last year; supporting the March for Our Lives kids and other programs to reduce gun violence; support for our local jail ministry, so that incarcerated persons might one day return to their place at the table, whole and restored.
For every one born there is a place at the table, when we choose welcome, not fear.