February 4, 2016
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” -Matthew 5:14-16
I have lived my life with a last name that others have always found different and hard to deal with. It always announces that my family came to America from somewhere else. My grandfather immigrated to this country through Ellis Island from Greece. He wasn’t fleeing any kind of war zone violence or religious persecution, but he did desire a better life for his wife and children. My family joined all the immigrants and refugees that have made a new life in this free country that we call home.
I spent this past week with The Rev. Noé Bernier, a priest and friend from the Diocese of Haiti. Noé was here to address our Diocesan Convention and visit his daughter, who is in high school in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I was with Noé when the news broke of the new immigration and refugee ban. Hoping an education in the United States will make his daughter’s life better, he was distressed by our President’s ill-conceived Executive Order.
We find ourselves at a crossroads: we can travel the road of fear or the road of compassion and care for those on the margins. Our brothers and sisters around the world face incredible obstacles, profound suffering, and deep despair. In this moment, we must reflect on our commitment to those who seek our help.
In our Gospel text for this coming Sunday we hear Jesus say to those who would be his disciples, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid….let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
We are called to be the light and not to shrink from this responsibility. In this moment of great turmoil around the world, we cannot turn our backs on those in most need. We cannot let fear dominate our minds as innocent children, women, and men suffer. We must listen for the call to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God”.
In particular, I would like to assure the immigrants and refugees of Southwestern Virginia that you are welcome in our Episcopal Churches and we value you in our communities. This action does not represent the best of our American identity and it is contrary to the mandate of our Christian scriptures and the commands of our Lord.
The Rt. Rev. Mark A. Bourlakas
Bishop of Southwestern Virginia
I urge you to take action through the Episcopal Public Policy Network: http://advocacy.
I also commend the statement issued by our Presiding Bishop: http://
For more information concerning the ongoing refugee crisis around the world, please visit Episcopal Migration Ministries, the refugee resettlement office of the national church: http://www.