The Rev. Ann Berney walks along the border wall between El Paso and Juárez.  A team from Seattle: Wallingford United Methodist Church visited this area to participate in Abriendo Fronteras (or Opening Borders). 

By Jesse N. Love, Tom Pouliot, Mary Edwards, Patricia Naumann and the Rev. Ann Berney

Special thanks to Ann Joyce, Jerry Jutting, Mary Latham, Nikki Nichols and Diana Pearce for contributing their experiences in this article.

Palm fronds are decoratively placed on stage at Wallingford UMC in Seattle.

On a bright Sunday morning in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood, palm fronds invite all to this small yet vibrant church. Inside, congregants wave palms, shouting, “Hosanna in the highest!” — imbuing a sense of welcome, peace, and the coming of Justice.

Following the service, nine members of Wallingford UMC gather to share their thoughts on their experiences from their recent trip to El Paso, Texas and Juárez, Chihuahua (Mexico). The group participated in a program called Abriendo Fronteras (or Opening Borders) on March 19-25, 2017.

Members from Wallingford UMC discuss their recent trip to El Paso and Juárez.

The group learned first-hand what is happening to brothers and sisters seeking refuge along the United States and Mexico border. The Opening Borders program was both an educational and emotional immersion experience for these Seattleites.


About 1,700 miles away from Seattle, the Rio Grande River separates El Paso and Juárez. Here, El Paso’s peacefulness contrasts with Juárez’s violence: gangs, murder, extortion, militarized police, political corruption, and distrust are a daily reality for its citizens. This prompts many to seek sanctuary in the U.S.

“I can’t imagine what it would be like living in that situation,” shared WUMC’s Jerry Jutting. “I find myself thinking and learning about our own government…in that we are complicit in certain ways, if we don’t educate ourselves.”

In Juárez, the group visited social and human rights workers; a women’s cooperative of craftwork and empowerment; a medical clinic; a day center for disabled children and families; a grassroots tutoring center serving 70 students daily; and saw memorials to victims of violence.

In El Paso, the group met with Border Patrol Agents; visited an immigration law clinic; attended federal court deportation proceedings; participated in Mass at the Detention Center; toured Annunciation House where refugees and some from the detention center are housed; prepared and shared in a meal with its residents; was served by a victim and refugee from violence; and absorbed insightful data from a university professor on the origins of violence and the urge to escape.

Reporters exposing social injustice and corruption continue to be murdered. The area’s historical struggles correlate to the drug and arms trade, as well as, political and local policies of both the United States and Mexico.

The Abriendo Fronteras program nurtures holy listening, sharing through dialogue, and sending participants out to put faith into action. Housed at El Paso’s Columban Center, the group opened the day with prayer and singing, and closed each day with prayer and reflection. Father Robert Mosher of El Paso’s Columban Center hosted, guided, and interpreted for the experience.

The Rev. Ann Berney serves as lead pastor at Seattle: Wallingford UMC. Berney welcomes guests and members to church during Palm Sunday.

Pastor Ann Berney has challenged the team to discover connections between what is happening on the border and what is happening in Seattle. According to the Department of Homeland Security, 84 foreign nationals were arrested in the Northwest, with 19 from King County, in a recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid, last March.

Wallingford UMC’s Mission in part states: “As a community of faith, we affirm the inclusiveness of the gospel, and celebrate diversity in our midst. As a community of hope, we proclaim that this broken world can change and that healing and wholeness can come. As a community of love, we commit ourselves to working for justice and peace, that our love may be made concrete and visible in the world.”

A Reconciling Congregation since 1983 with a tradition of welcoming those on the margins, WUMC continues to feel the impact of the trip as the Church stretches to fulfill its mission.

A team from Wallingford UMC visited El Paso and Juárez to learn more about those migrating from the US/Mexico border. They met with refugees, toured detention centers and temporary homes, and even engaged in vital discussions with Border Patrol Agents. Their trip was both an informational and emotional experience.


If you would like folks from Wallingford UMC speak at your church, please contact the Rev. Ann Berney, 206-551-5918. Learn more about Wallingford UMC’s upcoming events, visit or visit Facebook,

Jesse N. Love serves as the graphic designer and print manager for PNWUMC.



  1. Kudos to “Opening Borders!” Kudos, too, to the Western Jurisdiction for opening other borders, so that our LBGT sisters and brothers can be ordained, and, if they so choose, to marry whom they love! Case in point the wonderful Bishop Karen Oliveto a talented, educated, compassion pastor who was elected to be Bishop in the Western Jurisdiction. She, also, happens to be married to the person whom she loves, a talented, educated, compassionate, female deacon. What does one’s sexual orientation or gender identity have to do with their competence, compassion, educational qualifications, or dedication? It has absolutely nothing to do with these qualities.
    It has been 40+ years that the BoD dictated that anyone who was not heterosexual was not living “according to Christian values.” It was 40, some odd, years that we segregated our African American sisters and brothers into the “Central Jurisdiction.” Yes, my friend, those were until the late 1960s, and the BoD, now is “wandering in the desert.” How long will the UMC wander in the desert this time?

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