All Souls, Berkeley, leads May Interfaith Immigration Vigil

On Saturday, May 7, the All Souls Angel Band kicked off the Interfaith Immigration Prayer Vigil, as an estimated 80-100 people gathered at the West County Detention Facility in Richmond. The Rev. Ruth Meyers, dean of academic affairs and Hodges-Haynes professor of liturgics at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, led the worship with Christopher Putnam, associate for liturgy and music, and the All Souls Angel Band. Parishioner Janet Chisholm led the planning and organization of the event.

The liturgy, for the most part in both English and Spanish, included: the traditional reading of “Why We Vigil;” “Expanding the Circle of Justice and Peace,” a litany developed by the Rev. Daniel Prechtel; and a Litany for Justice. The spirited, participatory service featured lively music including “Oh Freedom!” and “Siyahmba” from South Africa; “Canticle of the Turning;” and “Come, Live in the Light/We Are Called” by David Hass. Several children from All Souls marched with posters inside the large circle of adults.


Ed Hoffman, Christopher Putnam, and the Angel Band strike up a tune while Isabel Gabriel carries a poster for all to see.

Erick Chavarría, a representative from the Post Release Accompaniment Project (PRAP), spoke about the program, a collaboration among CIVIC, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, and Centro Legal de la Raza. PRAP works to ensure the long-term sustainability of a safe release program for asylum seekers at this facility.

There were two testimonials. The first was by Evilyn, a mother of five from El Salvador. Her family became homeless when the father was deported. They are staying temporarily at the Catholic Worker House; one of the children was recently diagnosed with leukemia. With Daniel Pinell of Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity serving as interpreter, Evilyn expressed heartfelt thanks to everyone present.


Daniel Pinell interprets for Evilyn—with Amber, her case worker from Catholic Worker, and Christine Trost and the Rev. Daniel Prechtel of All Souls.

The second testimonial was by a woman who fled a violent situation in Mongolia—after five months in the facility, she had just been granted asylum the day before! She made the most of her time there, learning English and doing a lot of reading. For two weeks, she is staying in a dedicated room in the All Souls Parish House, where her accompaniment team of six people is checking in on her daily, and providing meals and hospitality. Both women spoke about what a relief it is to them to be able to talk about their experiences and to feel the support of this community.

The Vigil, organized by the Rev. Deborah Lee and the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, is held the first Saturday of every month. At each Vigil, a diverse interfaith crowd sings, prays, and listens to testimony from family members and friends of those inside, or from recently released immigrants awaiting hearings. The Richmond facility is one of 250 detention centers across the United States used by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house undocumented immigrants awaiting hearings or deportation. Each Vigil concludes with a sacred Moment of Noise to let the detainees know that the assembled crowd is there to support and pray for them. For more information, contact Elena Herrera, ivanelena2@yahoo.com.


The Rev. Phil Brochard, and sons, Ben and Jonah, join Patricia O'Gilloly and Jennifer Boehler in the circle.

Photos courtesy of All Souls parishioner Stephen Southern