Edmonds, WA – On Sunday, January 22nd, nearly 100 Edmonds United Methodist Church congregants and community members attended a forum called Voices We Need to Hear. The event was planned as a listening session between members of the community and representatives from Muslim, LGBTQ, immigrant, and communities of people of color.
Michael Ramos, Executive Director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, moderated the event, sharing the work of the council in the metro area. Their goal, like that of the January 22 forum, is to bring together people of different perspectives to be reconciled with one another and then work together for justice and acts of compassion to serve the most vulnerable in our midst. Also in attendance was Edmonds City Councilman Dave Teitzel, who shared (to applause) the council’s recent vote to become a safe city where all visitors and residents could expect a safe, hate-free environment.
Josefina, a U.S. green card holder of Zapotec indigenous descent from Oaxaca, Mexico, shared her extraordinary story of escaping an abusive home, life-threatening poverty, and involuntary child servitude. At 12, she fled to the city, where she endured homelessness and discrimination. With little education, limited Spanish, and no job prospects, she faced the life-or-death choice of starving in Oaxaca or making a dangerous journey to America. She described how deadly this journey was, and expressed her gratitude to God for bringing her here. She thanked Edmonds UMC in particular for providing support through the mobile health clinic, the food bank, a surgery, and getting her work visa papers and helping her find a home in our community. As soon as the forum finished, she immediately shared a tearful and heartfelt hug with Ron and Lynn Heitritter, who organized the Edmonds Mobile Health Clinic.
Hisham Farajallah, trustee of the Idris Mosque in Northgate, Seattle, spoke about how his group has turned outward to their community, particularly after the tragic events of 9/11, in order to create a welcoming space for all people to share in their worship. He offered an open door to all who wanted to contact the mosque and join their monthly barbecue and social time so that we could all learn more about each other. His statement was to remind everyone there that “Islam is a religion, not a culture”, and the cultural views held by some of its extremists do not represent Islam, and certainly do not represent the ideals of Idris Mosque. He invited all to visit their community by calling and setting up a visit: http://www.idrismosque.com/vis
Jessica Burwell, a congregant at Edmonds United Methodist Church, described her experiences in our culture being married to another woman with a child. She talked about the discomfort of being gay or lesbian in our society — especially in public. Many people think of “coming out” as gay a one-time event, but she shared that for her it was a daily event, explaining that everywhere someone who is LGBTQ goes, they have to worry about how that status will cause others to treat them. She described the grief and fear she had experienced immediately following the 2016 election, and the great anxiety in the LGBTQ community about how they will be treated in the current day. She recommended action with compassion, even towards those with whom we disagree. “My advice is to be kind. Be fierce. Stand up for justice. But be kind.”
The stories were powerful and moving, while the tone of the event was deeply respectful and forward-looking. 60 people signed up to help speak out for those at the margins through future talks and events focussed on compassion, reconciliation, and action. Edmonds United Methodist church is a radically inclusive faith community at 828 Caspers, Edmonds WA, committed to welcoming all in our midst to worship, serve, and grow together. More information on the church or additional actions going forward can be directed to Corinne Travis at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the church at (425) 778-2119. www.edmondsumc.org.