Feast of All Saints finds Episcopalians marching for immigrant justice

Posted on November 2, 2010
For many immigrants, this year’s Feast of All Saints was a critical moment in a long, often lonely and sometimes violent struggle. At 9 a.m. that morning, the Ninth Circuit Appellate Court began hearings on Arizona’s harsh anti-immigrant law.

That law, known as SB1070, has become a painful symbol of our nation’s present hostility toward immigrants and especially Latinos. It was slated to take effect last July, but a last-minute lawsuit by the federal government prompted a judge to halt many of its key provisions. The state of Arizona quickly appealed, and now, on the morning of November 1st, the Court was to hear both the state’s and the federal government’s arguments.

Early that same morning, several Episcopalians from the Diocese of California--a bishop, a priest, a few seminarians, and lay leaders from El Buen Samaritano, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. John the Evangelist (all in San Francisco) gathered with members of other faith communities on a sun-lit sidewalk in front of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in downtown San Francisco.

Gathering of religious leaders.
(Photo by Jan Adams)

A Franciscan friar spoke about the city’s patron who overcame hatred and war by a relentless commitment to love. A rabbi told how each of our western traditions began with a migration: Israel out of Egypt; Jesus from Bethlehem into Egypt and from there to Nazareth; Mohammed and the early Umma from Mecca to Medina.

Lady Liberty pieta

(Photo by Brother Tikhon Pethoud, CoS)


After a passing bicyclist jovially shouted “Go Giants!”, anticipating the home team winning the World Series later that day, clergy from the various traditions assembled on the church steps to launch the procession with a blessing.

Several marchers carried paintings by Arizona artists reflecting their struggle for immigration reform. One of these, a pietà of Lady Liberty cradling the broken body of a Latino immigrant, led the procession.

Interfaith march
Mr. Bob Fuller of St. John the Evangelist and Dr. Felipe Paris Sanchez of St. Gregory of Nyssa.
(Photo by Jan Adams)

Our half mile trek wound up Mission Street, over to Market, then left on Seventh to the Federal Court House.

Along the way we chanted, sang, and visited with people from various parts of the country.

The Rt. Rev. Otis Charles addresses the crowd.
The Rt. Rev. Otis Charles speaking about the need for immigration reform.
(Photo by Brother Tikhon Pethoud, CoS)

Once everyone arrived at the Courthouse, Bishop Otis Charles, speaking on behalf of Bishop Marc Andrus, took the microphone. He mentioned his and the other bishops’ recent visit to the Arizona border during what many believe to be the civil rights movement of our time. “While we wait, thousands are dying attempting to cross the border, millions of undocumented residents are living in anxiety and fear, families are being torn asunder, and we are undervaluing a great national resource,” he said.

After Bishop Charles, two veterans of the Civil Rights struggle of the 1950s and 1960s, the Rev. James Lawson and his brother, the Rev. Phil Lawson, spoke about the disciplined perseverance needed to overcome “400 years of organized evil.”

Later, the gathering moved into the middle of Seventh Street as police quietly re-routed traffic. There were various testimonies and appeals by immigrants, political leaders, and activists. There were songs, chants, and prayers. Then, as the court concluded its hearing, the gathering slowly dispersed.

No timeline has been given for when the court may reach its decision. Many, including the governor of Arizona, expect the case to be appealed to the U.S Supreme Court.

This year’s Feast of All Saints has come and gone. But clearly, as the struggle for immigrant justice continues, the saints will keep marching.

(The Rev. Dr. Richard Smith, priest associate at the Episcopal Church of St, John the Evangelist in San Francisco, served on the planning committee for the day’s event.)