Church World Service presenting ‘Together We Welcome’ five-day virtual event in November
by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service
LEXINGTON, Kentucky — The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is one of the major sponsors of Together We Welcome, a five-day virtual Church World Service (CWS) conference to strengthen support in the faith community for immigrants, migrants and refugees.
The Nov. 7-11 conference is designed to help people at the community and congregational levels see how they can be involved in welcoming and the issues surrounding immigration.
“There are several reasons that I am excited about this conference,” said Susan Krehbiel, associate for Refugees & Asylum for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA). “Presbyterians have a long tradition of welcoming refugees and newcomers into our communities but individual congregations and their members may not have recent experience. Conferences like this help individual congregations see how they are part of something really big while offering an opportunity to really dig into the nuts and bolts of this type of ministry. Working together with other faith groups, refugee and immigrant leaders, we can offer a much broader conference than we could do on our own. And the workshops and denominational breakout sessions create spaces for local church leaders to network and learn from the experience of others.”
Each evening will be broken into three hourlong blocks with main stage speakers, two sessions about Afghan refugees, denominational meetings at the end of the final day, and four focus tracks people can follow through the conference: Advocacy, Asylum, Resettlement and Climate. Krehbiel has been part of the planning team for the conference along with Amanda Craft, manager for Advocacy in the Office of Immigration Issues in the Office of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Both Krehbiel and Craft are members of the CWS Faith Solidarity Group whose mission is to work in partnership to support local communities and congregations in their engagement and solidarity with refugees, asylum seekers, asylees and migrants through building relationships, doing advocacy, creating community sponsorships, and educating faith leaders and congregations.
Early bird registration of $25 for the conference is available through Oct. 15. It will go up to $35 after that until Nov. 5.
Church World Service started working in refugee resettlement after World War II and is one of nine organizations that works directly with the U.S. government on resettlement. From CWS leaders to the church level, faith leaders across the country have seen a spike in interest in helping with refugee resettlement since the U.S. military withdrew from Afghanistan in late August.
While support for Afghan refugees is vital, and there are segments of the conference devoted to that specific issue, Krehbiel says it is important that people understand that challenges faced by Afghan refugees are faced by most immigrants and asylum seekers who come to the United States.
“The Afghans are arriving at a time when the U.S. government has committed to rebuilding the overall U.S. refugee resettlement program, preparing for 125,000 refugees to be resettled in the next 11 months,” Krehbiel said. “At the same time, people continue to arrive at our borders (and airports) to seek asylum from Guatemala, El Salvador, Venezuela, Haiti and dozens of other countries. All have suffered great loss, bring great hope and perseverance and all deserve to be welcomed with dignity.”
CWS works with 37 Christian denominations and communions. In addition to the PC(USA), United Methodist Church Global Ministries is a major sponsor of the Together We Welcome Conference.
On Nov. 17 at 2 p.m. ET, the Presbyterian Mission Agency will host a Matthew 25 discussion about refugees and immigration. Watch the Matthew 25 webpage for registration.
Krehbiel says PDA plans to host a virtual immigration gathering sometime in early 2022.
“I particularly want to encourage individuals who are interested in leading a local team to provide a warm welcome and accompany either refugees or asylum seekers to attend this conference,” Krehbiel said. “Whether you are just starting out or have years of experience in this type of ministry, this conference offers something for you. All PC(USA) participants are invited to a denominational gathering on Nov. 11 during the closing session of the conference and a post-conference gathering in January 2022 to encourage and support each other.”
Gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing enable Presbyterian Disaster Assistance to support Refugee and Asylum ministries.
You may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.