Immigration's Impact on the Church Pews
As immigration reform heats up in Washington this week, many religious leaders know first hand how the issue has changed congregations. When David Farley became pastor of Echo Park United Methodist Church in 1982, the Los Angeles, Calif. congregation consisted mostly of older Caucasians. Now the church has a large immigrant contingent, with nearly 80 percent of the congregation being of Hispanic and Asian descent. “There is not one family in this church that is not directly affected by a broken immigration system,” said Farley, who has wrestled with his congregation's changing demographics. The Rodriguez sisters, who have been church members for two decades, rely on the support of their pastor and church community as they face pending deportations. “Every day in this ministry is heart breaking, in a way,” said Farley, who is also the chairperson of the Immigration Task Force for the California Pacific Conference of the United Methodist Church, "but I have faith and hope."