Worship Resources

by Ken Nafziger


 Greed over available spaces and resources clouds our immigration conversations. This worship service is structured as a reflective meditation on migration. It seeks to give space to consider our own immigrant status (on two levels: that our Christian citizenship is elsewhere, and many of our own ancestors come from outside the borders of the U.S.), and to listen to recent immigrants who are significantly affected by the policies being debated. Biblical teachings on hospitality are clear, from the Torah through the Epistles.

Come, let us worship…

Niklas Gustavsson/Wikimedia Commons

Prelude music

A small instrumental ensemble of musicians could play some Latin American music, beginning with something lively (such as STJ 8, Somos pueblo que camina or STJ 64, Somos el cuerpo de Cristo) and ending with something reflective (such as STJ 69, Cuando el pobre or STS 65, Abre mis ojos). These songs would also work well elsewhere in the service.

Call to worship

A table should be covered with a colorful cloth, with five fairly large candles of differing colors or textures placed on it. Five persons will move slowly forward through the sanctuary, and light the candles while facing the congregation. After the candle is lit, each will read his or her lines. This part of the service should not be rushed.

1st  Person:       I light a light in the name of God who lit the world

and breathed the breath of life into all people:

rich and poor; documented and undocumented;

citizens and residents—all God’s children.

2nd  Person:      I light a light in the name of the Son,

the refugee, migrant, undocumented Christ,

who saved the world

and stretched out his hand to all people of the world.

3rd  Person:      I light a light in the name of the Spirit

who travels with each one of us;

the Spirit, who migrates with and blesses all souls;

the Spirit of hope and love and peace.

4th  Person:      I light a light in the name

of all undocumented persons living in the shadows,

who pray unceasingly for life and legislation that will set them free.

5th  Person:      I light a light of hope that will illuminate this day and all days,

so that no one in this country will have to live in the shadows

but will walk and work and live openly,

as welcomed sisters and brothers.

Opening prayer

The opening prayer should be in two parts: (1) a prayer that acknowledges what we as a congregation bring to this moment and (2) a prayer adapting phrases from the “Prayer of the Immigrant” from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Justice for Immigrants campaign.

You are the God who bears the brunt of the question,

“Why didn’t you stay where you belong?”

You feel the red-faced embarrassment when we hear,

“Keep your distance, you foreigner, with

your different-colored skin and your strange-sounding speech,

with your culture, food, religion, and clothing that are inferior to my own.”

You are the God who sits alongside of us who work in sweatshops,

with our bloodshot eyes and aching fingers squinting under the soul-less glare of a fluorescent light.

You are the God who rises early in the morning with us

as we go to harvest fresh vegetables and fruits

picked with fingers stained by the pesticides and fungicides that penetrate our skin.

You are the God who stands with us in the chill of the morning in the parking lot,

with anxious stomachs hoping that we too would be picked to work just for that one day.

Loving God, as we stand before you today,

help us to remember that when we speak of immigrants and refugees, we speak of Christ.

Hear our prayers for necessary, just and comprehensive immigration reform.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.


HWB 55          Cantemos al Señor

HWB 46          I sing the mighty power of God

HWB 397        God loves all his many people


Hearing and opening the Scriptures

I. A wandering Aramean was my ancestor… (Deuteronomy 26:1-5)

Our faith story is a long history of wandering as pilgrims and aliens. Look up some of these stories; read selected phrases. Have members of the congregation prepare brief stories (no longer than 200 words) from their own experiences as illustrations of having been shown hospitality.

II. You shall have one law for the alien and for the citizen… (Leviticus 24:22)

Earlier this year, Archbishop Tutu wrote regarding Arizona’s latest immigration laws:

“Abominations such as apartheid do not start with an entire population suddenly becoming inhumane….They start with generalizing unwanted characteristics across an entire segment of a population….They start with stripping people of rights and dignity…Not because it is right, but because [they] can…because somehow, [they] think this [solves] a problem.”

Confessional prayer would be appropriate here. One option is to use the framework of a World Council of Churches prayer “In Solidarity with Uprooted People,” allowing silence, or the naming of situations or people, or if there are those in the congregation who have worked in the midst of situations arising over immigration issues, their stories would be powerful here.

Prayer of confession

Leader: Today we bring into the shelter of our prayer all those who have been uprooted from their homes and communities,

people who are compelled to flee for their lives,

to leave their land and culture,

and live apart from their families.

With them, we mourn their loss of dignity, community,

resources, and employment.

– silence, calling of names, reciting stories –

Leader: We especially pray for women who are the majority of those displaced.

We remember women who keep families together

in spite of the overwhelming odds of poverty, hostility, and violence.

We remember women who have been sexually assaulted and brutalized on their journey to find a living wage to sustain themselves and their families.

– silence, calling of names, reciting stories –

Leader: We remember refugee and immigrant children,

the millions whose lives are scarred by danger, exploitation,

desperate poverty and separation from parents.

– silence, calling of names, reciting stories –

Leader: God of Mercy and Compassion,

you meet us on the way and abide with us always.

Help us find ways to stand with our sisters and brothers

who simply want a chance to survive and prosper in their homes    and homelands

And when there is no such chance or when it is painfully slow in coming,

help us act with compassion, care and commitment

so as to be the tent in which they can be restored in your loving presence

and find safe shelter among us.

– silence, calling of names, reciting stories; may also include listing of people or organizations actively at work on immigration issues –

Another option for this time of confession would be to have someone read the prayer below from “In the Migrant Journey,” written by Saulo Padilla, director of immigration education for MCC U.S.

I walk with my brothers and sisters in desolation.

Are you here God?

Please don’t be far.

I am afraid and my soul is trembling.

You cried in Gethsemane, come cry with me.

Many hunt for us and we are accused of breaking the law;

You have been persecuted,

come be our witness,

defend our cause.

Make known the roots of our suffering and the causes of our journey.

Make public that our intentions are in accord to your law.

Intercede for those who walk with us in this path.

Make their rights be known,

and their voices be heard.

Guide the feet of those who get lost.

You know the darkness.

Hold our hands.

In the dim night shine your light and direct our path.

Restore the lands of our ancestors.

Bring justice to our people.

Pour rain on their crops,

and give them peace to harvest their fruit.

Anxiety and fear are our companions in our journey;

replace them with peace and hope.

Nurture our spirits while we are far from home.

Be with our loved ones.

Do not let time erase the way back home,

so that we may not live in exile forever.

The desert is arid and thirst awaits us.

You know the desert.

You’ve been exiled.

Come walk with us,

and bring a fountain of justice into our lives.

Sow seeds of peace and justice in the hearts and minds of those who resist our journey.

Let us be seeds of peace and hope in our new home, this land of our exile. Amen.

III. When was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you? (Matthew 25:38)

The spiritualityandpractice.com website reflects on hospitality: “We are practicing hospitality when we welcome guests—including strangers and enemies—into our lives with graciousness….Sometimes hospitality requires that we cross boundaries and dismantle some of the barriers erected in our society to keep ‘the other’ out. Sometimes it means entertaining ideas that might be alien to us.”

Find stories of hospitality that cross cultural divides. Or use this section to give thanks for the ways in which hospitality happens in your community.



HWB 15          O Prince of peace

HWB 78          Ehane he’ama

HWB 145        There’s a wideness in God’s mercy

HWB 148        By the waters or STJ 22 By the waters of Babylon

HWB 366        God of grace and God of glory

HWB 372        O healing river

HWB 419        Lead on, O cloud of Presence

STJ 4               You’ve got a place at the welcome table

STJ 13             My soul is filled with joy

STS 53                        Here to the house of God we come

STS 115          Beauty for brokenness

STS 124          My soul cries out

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,

for by doing that, some have entertained angels…


HWB   Hymnal: A Worship Book

STJ      Sing the Journey

STS     Sing the Story

Ken Nafziger is professor of music at Eastern Mennonite University.

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