Seeing God in the Presence of Community: A Letter from Natalie Finstad, ECM Director of Programs and Engagement

Epiphany: a manifestation or perception of the essential nature of something; an intuitive grasp of reality through something usually simple and striking; an illuminating discovery or realization.

The Episcopal Church is currently celebrating the Season after Epiphany, a season in which we journey alongside the earliest followers of Jesus as they begin to realize who Jesus is and the profound impact his identity has on their lives. I love this season because it offers me a chance to examine my ever-evolving understanding of Jesus and ask myself, "How is my experience and understanding of God impacting the way I live my life?" A question that undeniably generates a response linked to my current experiences.

This year, I am finding comfort in an understanding of God as the One who is present to us at in times of dismay. Gary Commins, Episcopal priest and author, writes about the importance of understanding God to be present, even if the world isn't getting "better," in his book " If Only We Could See: Mystical Vision and Social Transformation ."

What if our hopes are not holy visions but placebos or pipe dreams? What happens when faith and hope shrivel up and  love is left without its comrades in activism?

These are questions one must ask with all the company of earth whose deepest dreams have been perennially deferred or persistently dashed. The questions must be shouted with many persons of many oppressed people, with moaning and with mourning.

What if the revolution of God is permanent only because it never succeeds? And: if God's realm is never to come, how will we seek it as if it could?

Often, in the work of community engagement or justice, we can get caught up in the idea that we need to see "results." And, while it is of course important to see impact, it is important for me to remember that at times the impact is the presence of Christ not the change in an external situation. In a political and social climate that seems to bring daily reminders of challenge, I am heartened by the ways that I am discovering God in the constant presence of ECM and our partners in the quest for a world that looks more like God's dream. They manifest a God present in all times and disrupt the idea that our hope lies only in "things getting better." They enable me to see God as the one who is always alongside us, giving us the courage to show up constantly as messengers of love in our communities, regardless of the immediate outcome.

It is my hope that you will find in this newsletter signs of that God. That you will be moved by the faithful witness of people who pray, march, and listen as to how God is calling is to respond faithfully in our communities.

In the Blessing,

Natalie Finstad
Director of Programs and Engagement at ECM
Take Action with ECM
Immigrant Justice Bond Fund

The Immigration Justice Bond Fund, a partnership between ECM and San Lucas, Chelsea, Chelsea Collaborative, St. Stephen's, Lynn, and Essex County Community Organization (ECCO) has bonded out five people who have been unjustly detained. Episcopalians have accompanied these neighbors through the process of posting bond, re-uniting with family and community, and receiving legal advice on the path to permanent residency. In one case, Episcopalians bonded out a neighbor in New Orleans and hosted him until he could fly home to Lynn, MA.

We are grateful for the support from individuals and the following parishes: the Rev. Marya deCarlen and All Saints, North Shore; the Rev. Deborah Warner and Church of the Messiah, Woods Hole; the Rev. Scott Ciosek and the parishes of St. Peter's, Dartmouth and St. Martin's, New Bedford; and the Rev. Nathan Ives and St. Peter's Salem for their generous parish contributions to the Fund. We are also grateful to the Very Rev. Amy McCreath, Dean of Cathedral Church of St. Paul, and the Rev. Michael Kinman, Rector of All Saints Pasadena in the Diocese of Los Angeles, for a friendly World Series wager resulting in contributions for the bond fund.

For more information about how to be involved in accompaniment of individuals in this challenging time for our immigrant neighbors and siblings contact or click on the link for more information about donating to the fund .
Immigration Task Force
The Episcopal Diocese of MA through the office of the Canon for Immigration & Multicultural Ministries and members of the Immigration Task Force and ECM are collaborating to find ways to support parishes across the Diocese to act on the I mmigration Justice Resolution passed at the most recent 233rd Convention of the Diocese of Massachusetts. This group will meet on February 27, 2019 from 11:00am- 1:00pm at 138 Tremont Street.  If you have questions or would like to attend the upcoming meeting, contact

The resolution described supporting parishes to build relationship and support for our immigrant neighbors through the following possibilities: 
  • Resisting 287(g) agreements (which deputize local police as ICE agents)
  • Education, organizing, advocacy & direct action on immigrant justice
  • Accompanying immigrant neighbors materially and spiritually
We look forward to sharing in the Spring 2019 ways to be engaged in this work. If your parish is already engaged in accompaniment, education or advocacy, please let us know including a contact person so that we can add you to our emerging network. Send information to:
Recent News from ECM
Over 100 leaders from across Bristol County attended a recent community meeting on immigration in New Bedford.
Bristol County Organizing
On January 15, ECM convened a gathering for immigration justice at Bristol Community College, New Bedford campus that was attended by over 100 people. Those in attendance came from 11 different grassroots organizations and 4 houses of worship from all over Bristol County. It was a night of training, sharing a meal, and community building. Natalie Finstad, ECM's Director of Programs and Engagement, led an exercise in storytelling as a tool for community organizing. Dax Crocker, Lead Organizer, and Carly Margolis, Organizing Fellow, worked with teams to begin addressing immigration injustices.

ECM is currently part of the following initiatives in Bristol: coordinating a Transportation Network with 21 drivers who provide free rides to immigration appointments; working towards the passing of Safe Communities Act legislation; supporting local immigration agencies in Bristol County (like CEDC); participating in Cosecha's Driver's License Campaign to let undocumented immigrants drive legally; and a Media Campaign to change the negative narrative against immigrants.

If you want to be involved with immigrant justice work in Bristol County please contact Dax Crocker, ECM's Lead Organizer at Dax@EpiscopalCityMission.Org

Episcopal Engagement in Bristol County and Mt. Hope Buzzards Bay

As we build lasting relationships in Bristol County, ECM desires to build relationships with the Episcopal Faith Communities that are part of the Bristol area. If you are located in or near Bristol County (Mt. Hope Buzzards Bay Deanery and/or Bristol County Parishes) and would like a visit from Episcopal City Mission to talk about how your parish can get involved in the work of local justice issues, please contact Natalie Finstad, ECM's Director of Programs and Engagement, at Natalie@EpiscopalCityMission.Org.
Prophetic Leadership Program Launches in 5 Parishes
ECM's ten-month program, "Prophetic Listening" launched in January of 2019 in five parishes in the Eastern and Western Dioceses of Massachusetts. Participating parishes either begin or join a current community justice initiative in their context, deepen the parish's sense of relational culture, and increase the number of people engaged in the work of outreach. The parishes in the 2019 program are: Old North Congregation Boston, Peter's/San Pedro Salem, All Saints Brookline, Trinity Marshfield, and Misa Aleluya Worcester.

In the program, teams made up of parishioners and wider community members learn leadership practices that enable them to listen and respond to how God is calling them to love boldly and do justice. The training materials focus on coaching parishes to engage more deeply with their community, both within and outside of their church, on questions of spirituality and justice. We hope to help parish groups dig deeper into their own spiritual practices and equip them with relational skills needed to start organizing their parish to do the work of justice in their communities.
Grants Release: Burgess Urban Fund and Parish Partnerships
This December, ECM distributed $457,500 in grants to 26 organizations and 9 parishes through two of our grantmaking programs, the Burgess Urban Fund and the Parish Partnership Grants Program. Grantee partners from these two programs represent 6 counties across the Commonwealth, working on a variety of issue areas including: racial justice, immigrant justice, housing rights, workers' rights, youth organizing, and climate justice. For a listing of the 2018 Burgess Urban Fund Grant recipients, click here. For a listing of the Parish Partnership Grant recipients, click here.
ECM Partners
ECM hosted a solidarity vigil for Eduardo at St. Paul's Cathedral on January 16.
Actions to Support Eduardo Samaniego
On January 16, ECM answered a national call to host a vigil for immigrant rights leader and Episcopal Service Corps alum Eduardo Samaniego , as he awaited a decision on whether he would be offered bond or ordered deported. Eduardo was arrested in Georgia in October after forgetting his wallet and being unable to pay a cab fare; due to the 287(g) agreement in Cobb County, GA, Eduardo was transferred to ICE detention and spent 106 days in prison. For three of these weeks, he was placed in solitary confinement due to his identity as an activist. 

The vigil at St. Paul's Cathedral was one of over twenty solidarity actions across the country, from Los Angeles to Atlanta to Washington, DC. Pioneer Valley Workers Center led the national campaign to #FreeEduardo with incredible love. We were grateful to take their leadership as we garnered the support of hundreds of clergy and thousands of other friends of Eduardo. (Media coverage: Boston Globe)

Bishop Doug Fisher of the Episcopal Diocese of western MA joined the Reverend Canon Tanya Wallace from the Lawrence Fellows Service Corps, an Episcopal Service Corps young adult internship program, and Margaret Sawyer from the Pioneer Valley Workers Center to rally in support of Eduardo. They gathered at the ICE office in Springfield. (Media coverage: Gazette)

While Eduardo was heartbreakingly deported to Mexico on February 1st, we lift up the solidarity efforts between the Pioneer Valley Worker Center and the Episcopal dioceses and many Episcopal communities in western MA. 

To support Eduardo and his family, please continue to share his story and donate to his emergency fund at If you would like to be involved in immigrant justice accompaniment or advocacy contact

Read more here
Parish of the Epiphany in Winchester: 
Leaders in Immigrant Justice (read the blog post)
ECM celebrates The Parish of the Epiphany in Winchester for their ongoing commitment to immigrant justice. They are taking leadership in the immigrant justice advocacy and accompaniment work as well as shaping their worship to keep the parish oriented towards the work of justice. To read about action opportunities and get involved, check out the blog post here.

Contact: Pam Chester,, 617-484-6088
Boston Immigrant Justice Accompaniment Network
We are inspired daily by our partners and collaborators in immigrant justice accompaniment.  Read here an  article  on their important work.

Contact: and get involved at
Coming Soon at ECM
Save the Date! 
ECM's 2019 Annual Celebration:  Disrupting Hope
June 11, 2019 from 5:30 - 8:30 p.m. at Boston University
This year's Annual Celebration will focus on the importance of finding hope in the now, through our actions in a place rather than focusing on a lofty intangible hope that will manifest in the future.  The featured speaker is Miguel A. De La Torre, professor of Social Ethics and Latinx Studies at Iliff School of Theology, scholar-activist, author, and ordained Baptist minister. His books include Embracing Hopelessness and The U.S. Immigration Crisis: Towards and Ethics of Place.