EPISCOPAL MIGRATION MINISTRIES – A WELL-KEPT SECRET?

Resolved, That the 73rd General Convention of the Episcopal Church express its profound and abundant thanks to the Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief, which for sixty years has responded faithfully and well to people in need throughout the United States and the world. Since its founding in 1940 through the vision of people of the Diocese of Southern Ohio, the Fund has served as the foremost tangible expression of relief and development through this Church…General Convention, Denver 2000.

EMM posterSince 1938 The Episcopal Church has been responding to support relief efforts for wartime refugees. Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) has its roots in the Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief (now called Episcopal Relief and Development), an agency founded through the vision of the people of the Diocese of Southern Ohio. Seventy-seven years later, the Episcopal Church still is responding to the needs of refugees and their families. Here in the diocese that gave birth to such an amazing organization, our contact with refugees has waned over the years. And yet, Episcopal Migration Ministries still has influence.

According to its 2014 Annual Report, Episcopal Migration Ministries has 30 resettlement communities, including Tucson, Arizona, Los Angeles, California, New Haven, Connecticut, Jacksonville, Florida, Boise, Idaho, Lexington, Kentucky, West Springfield, Massachusetts, Knoxville, Tennessee, and Columbus, Ohio. The refugee work in these communities occurs through the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s Episcopal Migration Ministries office, which is supported by funding from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement and The Episcopal Church. EMM works in partnership with a network of 30 affiliate offices, along with Episcopal dioceses, faith communities, and volunteers to welcome refugees from conflict zones across the globe. The affiliate in Columbus with whom we work is CRIS, Community and Refugee Immigration Services. (See “Welcoming the Stranger”)

The work of EMM and its affiliates is to provide refugees with longer-term employment training, intensive ESL and job placement assistance. In 2014, almost 1500 refugees achieved full-time employment and self-sufficiency within six months of arrival in U.S. When refugees arrive in the United States, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s local affiliates help them get started enrolling in school, looking for jobs and learning English. The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, through EMM, leverages support from donors and community partners with federal match grants to provide refugees with vocational training and intensive job placement services to help them achieve self-sufficiency.

June 20 was named World Refugee Day by the United Nations in 2000, in order for us to celebrate the gifts that refugees offer their new communities, and to raise awareness about the ongoing plight of refugees in various parts of the world. Many of our communities in the Diocese of Southern Ohio have individuals and families who initially arrived here as refugees. Often their assimilation into our culture has been aided by organizations like EMM, Church World Service and Catholic Charities. As the poster for EMM reminds us, Mary, Joseph and Jesus were once refugees as they fled to Egypt to escape Herod’s tyranny. Many folks in the Diocese of Southern Ohio have raised hands and voices to facilitate a holy welcome for those who find themselves as strangers in a strange land. Are you among them? We would love to share your stories with the rest of the diocese. Please send your stories of work with migrants and refugees to areed@diosohio.org.

Anne Reed serves as Canon for Mission in the Diocese of Southern Ohio. Contact her at areed@diosohio.org.