When U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided the Michael Bianco factory in New Bedford on March 6, 2007, arresting some 360 illegal immigrant workers there, Grace Church was among the local churches that rallied to assist the families left broken and traumatized by the mass arrests.
At the six-year anniversary of the raid, Grace Church again opened its doors, this time to host a three-day vigil leading up to an ecumenical service on March 9 at the Our Lady of Guadalupe-St. James Roman Catholic Church. There, advocates from New Bedford congregations and community organizations gathered to make a witness for immigration reform and worker justice.
Though stormy weather affected attendance, the Rev. Christopher Morck, Rector of Grace Church, said the events "helped to continue to call attention to an essential human rights issue happening right in our community. The church will continue to need to be involved in this as long as a segment of our population, and our city, are systematically exploited for their labor."
The vigil itself was three days of prayer and fasting; two people fasted for the whole time and others for shorter periods. People came and went, with others who couldn't be present offering prayer from wherever they were. There were also two bilingual evening services. "It was a beautiful thing to come together like that, across distinctions in language, context, culture, denomination," Morck said.
"Not everyone at Grace agreed with our hosting the vigil, but I think that many of us feel that all of this was both a privilege and a blessing for Grace Church," Morck said.
Read the stories that appeared in the Standard-Times and Boston Globe.