Welcoming the Stranger


Welcoming the Stranger: Immigration & Refugee Ministries of The Episcopal Diocese of Northern California is guided by the work of the Episcopal Migration Ministries of The Episcopal Church, and aims to find tangible and practical ways to help address and raise awareness for the needs of refugees, immigrants, and all people suffering as a result of oppression, injustice, and terror in the world. We aim to follow in the Jesus movement and help our neighbor, the stranger, in their time of need.

The Episcopal Church passed two resolutions on those seeking sanctuary at General Convention 2015 and General Convention 2018.

Our Roots

The task force grew out of a resolution passed at the 2014 Diocesan Convention. Resolution R6-14: Welcoming the Stranger was a response to the humanitarian crisis at the southern border of the United States, involving children and women fleeing from pervasive violence in the countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. The resolution called for the following actions: (1) advocating to government officials on behalf of these refugees; (2) encouraging donations to the national Episcopal Migration Ministries for its work on this crisis; (3) supporting the work of Episcopal dioceses and churches working with the refugees at the border and (4) providing information about the crisis on the diocesan website. The resolution was based on a July 10, 2014 statement of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jeffers Schori about this humanitarian crisis. Click here to read the full statement.

At this point, while the flow of children and women from Central American has abated somewhat, the plight of those who are here has not. Many of them have been held in detention facilities which a federal judge recently decried as being in "deplorable condition." Judge Gee of the Central District of California has ordered the immediate release of these families. Moreover, because there is no right to a lawyer in an immigration proceeding, the vast majority of refugee children have faced the impossible task of representing themselves before immigration judges.

It is in this context that the Welcoming the Stranger plans to find tangible and practical ways to help address the needs of these refugees. In particular, the task force is looking to work with other organizations with similar goals which are already providing services and aid.

Organizations Doing Great Work

Immigration Equality
A U.S. immigration advocacy group that advocates for and provides free legal services to LGBT and HIV-positive immigrants. According to the website, for more than 20 years, they have been focused on providing free legal services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV-positive immigrants, including: asylum seekers forced to flee to the U.S. to find safety; bi-national couples and families separated by oceans; detainees trapped in immigration jail facilities; undocumented LGBT people living in the shadows inside the U.S.

International Rescue Committee
 Volunteer opportunities for people not available at least 15 hours a week for 6 months at a time are limited. This is in the best interest of IRC clients and is intended to ensure excellence in their work. IRC does partner with churches on in-kind donation drives and to raise crucial funding for its work. Some examples include Safeway gift card drives to ensure new arrivals are able to afford healthy food, a used but well-functioning van to help with airport pickups, and various new household goods and furniture to set up family apartments. IRC reports its experience is that churches usually prefer to focus on one area because it's easier to see impact and they can 'own' that gift for local refugees.

Opening Doors
 Opening Doors, like other resettlement groups, focuses on the Sacramento Area to re-settle its clients, and most specifically in and around the Arden and Carmichael areas. This means that volunteer opportunities are primarily restricted to these areas. Opening Doors rep saw as the most valuable volunteer opportunity for our more local church members would be to engage in and experience a one-on-one relationship with these refugees by mentoring a family. This type of volunteer work is usually a once a week meeting with the family for one to two hours for a period of 2-3 months, and of course involves being in Sacramento during that time.

Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services
 The key for individual volunteer efforts is to be "in town." Even a proposed location such as Stockton, where family ties existed, was seen as too far removed from the necessary services and support available in Sacramento, and so the family was re-settled in Sacramento on an interim basis until a degree of stability was achieved. In-town volunteers serve as friends, mentors, and good neighbors with all geared towards moving towards greater cultural orientation for the re-settled individual or family.

Parish involvement can include collecting items necessary to start a household, i.e., everything from a complete "move-in" in a box to pillows, sheets and blankets, and everything in-between. Gift cards, such as to Walmart, are appreciated and needed. Refugees work from a fixed amount of money and anything that allows them to stretch those limited dollars is of tremendous benefit. Likewise, cash donations can be made directly to a family or to the Sacramento Food Bank, which can then make purchases on behalf of a family. e.g., an alarm clock. Cash donations can also be directed to specific items, such as the cost of flight to Sacramento, which is a cost ultimately borne by the refugee and is in the area of $1000/person.

World Relief Sacramento
 Historically, perhaps the longest-serving and most church-oriented of the four groups assisting in resettlement in Sacramento. Since 1944, World Relief "has been fulfilling its mission to empower the local church to serve the most vulnerable," and since 1989 has worked with partner churches in welcoming more than 30,000 refugees to Sacramento.

The Yolo Interfaith Immigration Network
 YIIN is a small grass roots 501(c)(3) non-profit organization serving and advocating for immigrants in Yolo County. YIIN has a weekly visitation program at Yolo County Juvenile Hall, where visits support immigrant youth in detention while they await resolution of their immigration cases. YIIN also offers a children/youth after-school program and adult English as a Second Language and computer classes at the Madison Migrant Center. This center is the home of migrant families in Yolo County who are here for six months of the year working in our fields and canneries. YIIN also holds educational programs that offer the wider community information about policy issues related to immigration and that aim to put a face on our many undocumented neighbors. YIIN raises money to provide financial aid to individuals applying for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) immigration status as well as to fund scholarships for undocumented students. YIIN meets monthly on the second Wednesday of the month in Davis/Woodland.

How can you help?


 1. Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM)--Episcopal Migration Ministries is the refugee resettlement service of the Episcopal Church. EMM works in partnership with its affiliate network, dioceses, faith communities and volunteers to welcome refugees from conflict zones across the globe. In the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California, EMM partners with the following Sacramento-area affiliates: the International Rescue Committee, Opening Doors, Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, and World Relief Sacramento. At the national level, EMM works closely with the Episcopal Public Policy Network to encourage advocacy on behalf of refugees and migrants.

2. Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD)--Episcopal Relief and Development is an independent 501(c)(3) organization that works closely with the Episcopal Church. It began as the Presiding Bishop's Fund for World Relief in the 1930s, emphasizing humanitarian assistance to refugees fleeing Europe. Today its mission has expanded to provide disaster relief and work toward sustainable development throughout the world. ERD funds a variety of programs that help refugees and migrants.

3. Foundation Cristosal (FC)--Foundation Cristosal is a human rights organization based in the Episcopal Church that works with local leaders in the Northern Triangle countries (El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua) to address the root causes of migration. FC does this "upstream" development work by strengthening the ability of the poor to act for justice and development as equal citizens in a democratic society.

4. Welcomingthestranger.com - the general website for World Relief's immigration resources. We have listed World Relief's Sacramento office in the "Organizations and People Doing Great Work" section of the WTS website.We also are putting the welcomingthestranger.com website in the"Educate" subsection of the "How Can You Help" section of the WTS website because we are particularly impressed by the congregational study guide called "Welcoming The Stranger: Discovering and Living God's Heart for Immigrants." 


1. Join the Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) to sign up for alerts about refugee and migrant issues. EPPN is a grassroots network of Episcopalians who fulfill the Baptismal Covenant's call to "strive for justice and peace" through an active ministry of public policy advocacy. EPPN's actions, programs and ministries are based entirely on policies approved by the Episcopal Church as a whole, through the actions of its General Convention and Executive Council.

2. Use EPPN's website to contact elected your officials to express support for policies and programs that help refugees and migrants.


1. Learn more about refugee and migrant issues generally, as well as how the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program works by visiting the Refugee Council USA (RCUSA) website. RCUSA is a coalition of U.S.-based nongovernmental organizations (including Episcopal Migration Ministries) focused on refugee protection.

2. Find out how people of faith can make a difference--there are great resources on the Episcopal Migration Ministries website and in the Refugee Resource Toolkit developed by the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.

3. Share what you have learned with your congregation. Include prayers for refugees and migrants in your regular Sunday worship. Invite speakers from refugee resettlement agencies to speak to your congregation about how to help refugees in your area. Develop lifelong Christian formation programs for children, youth and adults that focus on refugee and migrant issues. Consider developing an Advent or Lenten Outreach Project in your congregation to raise funds for refugee and migrant assistance.


Help with efforts at the diocesan level to increase awareness of and respond to the plight of refugees and migrants by joining the Welcoming the Stranger Task Force! For more details, please contact the Task Force Chair, Lynn Zender at 530-756-4610 or lynnzender@sbcglobal.net.


© 2013 The Episcopal Diocese of Northern California.

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