It has been an exciting and challenging year for ministry along the Route One Corridor. In February, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents rounded up, detained and arrested a number of Latino men as they left the hypothermia shelter in the church. Rising Hope gained national media attention because of this raid on our church that was in contradiction with ICE’s own policy of not detaining or arresting anyone in or places people come for help.
All the media attention gave me the opportunity to spread the Good News about a God who loves everyone regardless of immigration status, race, religion, ethnicity, or any other category used to exclude. I was seen or quoted in the media across the United States, Europe, South America and even Russia and some Islamic countries. Sen. Mark Warner invited me to attend President Trump’s first joint address to Congress as a witness of the church against immigration policies that tear families apart and put lives in jeopardy when deported. Sen. Tim Kaine, Congressman Don Beyer, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and a host of other state and local politicians visited Rising Hope. They were all welcomed as I shared with them the message of God’s inclusive love. Bishop Sharma Lewis subsequently appointed me to serve on a newly formed Virginia Conference Immigration Outreach Team.
In July Pastor James Brigmann spent two nights and two Sundays with Rising Hope as he walked all the way from Rockingham, N.C., where he serves, to give witness to the U.S. Congress that the proposed cuts to Medicaid would have a devastating effect on his severely disabled daughter and others receiving Medicaid. The cuts were defeated; at least for now.
In August the Nazi and KKK rally in Charlottesville had a chilling effect on our congregation. God is using that to help shape our current ministry into a ministry more clearly focused on fighting racism and xenophobic fears by strengthening a multicultural ministry of cooperation and reconciliation.
In October our leadership team is visiting the United Methodist Church for All People in Columbus, Ohio to learn how creating a Church Community Development Corporation brought jobs and hope to their community and strengthened their congregation.
A campaign to raise $500,000 for capital repairs and improvements gets into full swing in October. Additionally Rising Hope continues to seek support for our operating budget. Individual and congregational contributions remain strong because they see from their participation the tremendous work being done to serve the community. However, decreasing financial support from the Virginia Conference is causing us to reevaluate the ministries we operate. We are praying the support shown at our annual Hope Grows Gala on Oct. 13 will allow us to meet our budget and keep our ministry strong. Tickets and information can be found at www.risinghopeumc.org/shop.