I stood in the social hall past Sunday afternoon, October 21, thinking about our decision to become a Sanctuary Church in January of 2017. A celebration was underway, largely attended by folks from the latinx community along with a couple dozen members of MPUC. Though the event was in our building and our volunteers were on hand, we did not feel like the hosts. We were the guests as the community gathered to support one of its leaders, a family that we have had the privilege of getting to know. While everything about the event felt new to us, this was nothing new for this community. They had gathered like this many times before to be with each other through good and bad times: birthdays, loss of a home, weddings, medical challenges, and the deportation of a loved one. I asked one of the cooks how many of these events she had hosted and she couldn’t remember saying, “Too many to count.”
In the middle of the event, a group of Aztec folk dancers took center stage in traditional dancing clothes. It was explained that the community was reclaiming their indigenous heritage and religion. “We belong here,” one leader said, referring to the presence of the Aztec in what is now parts of the United States, long before the arrival of Europeans. The dancers performed a ritual, blessing the guests of honor. Following that, another group of dancers emerged with huge colorful hats, pale faced masks and gaudy costumes. Chinelos, it was explained, are Mexican folk dancers whose costumes mock colonialism. Their dance arose when native people were excluded from the Carnival celebrations of the Spaniards. Our Chinelos danced and then everyone was invited to dance with them. A few of us, including me, joined the dance. None of us really knew what to do, but we just started moving. As I danced, I realized that this is what solidarity can look like: moving together, even if awkardly, towards a common goal of ending injustice and oppression. It was one of many moments of solidarity during a very powerful afternoon.
Solidarity is an expression of love. Paul likens the diversity of God’s people to a body where the well-being of all parts matter in 1 Corinthians 12. If one part suffers, the whole body suffers. If one part is honored, all are honored. With this image fresh in the readers mind, he writes his iconic description of love in the very next chapter. Love is patient and kind, does not insist on its own way, rejoices in the truth, and both hopes and endures all things. I realized dancing with the Chinelos that these are the values that have guided our work on immigrant justice and call us ever deeper into it.