Guest post by Kate Burkart, Chair of the Peacemaking and Social Justice Committee at St. Philip Presbyterian Church
When the Peacemaking and Social Justice Committee of St. Philip Presbyterian Church in Houston, TX, gathered at its first meeting of 2017, committee members sought to discern what focus of its work to concentrate on in the coming year. St. Philip had committed to the denomination’s We Choose Welcome campaign, and the Committee discerned a call to “adopt” a refugee family by the end of 2018. Following a presentation at the Presbytery Center by two agencies working with refugees, two of our Committee members recommended that we enter into a relationship with Refugee Services of Texas (RST), as refugee work is their main focus, and at that point government funding and welcome of refugees was decreasing, leaving RST more in need of support.
St. Philip hosted a “Salaam Supper” in April 2017, a gathering of friends, family, colleagues, and members of the community for a meal to learn about refugees and to raise awareness and funding to support their welcome. In October 2017, the Committee, with Session approval, designated St. Philip’s 25% of the Peace & Global Witness Offering to go to RST. That November, the church hosted a half-day refugee-equipping workshop to provide answers to many questions about the refugee journey. Workshop attendees included interested persons from other churches in the Presbytery and even from other denominations. All this time, the Committee continued to educate itself and the congregation regarding what would be involved in assisting a refugee family, and in early 2018, a group of 13 individuals participated in RST training and underwent background checks to enable them to interact personally with refugees.
In March 2018, St. Philip welcomed its first refugee family at the airport and brought family members to their apartment home, quickly forming close bonds. St. Philip welcomed its second refugee family in April 2018 and looks forward to continuing to grow in this ministry as part of what Jesus tells us in Matthew 25: “When you have done it for one of the least of these, you have done it for me.”
As a way of living out our connectional nature as a church and supporting the work of the PC(USA), St. Philip has long participated in the denomination’s Special Offerings. The Peace and Global Witness Offering is a way of tangibly demonstrating our commitment to God’s peace and justice in our own community and for the whole world.
Individual congregations are encouraged to utilize up to 25% of this Offering to connect with the global witness of Christ’s peace. Mid councils retain an additional 25% for ministries of peace and reconciliation. The remaining 50% is used by the Presbyterian Mission Agency to advocate for peace and justice in cultures of violence, including our own, through collaborative projects of education and Christian witness. Click here to learn more.