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story.lead_photo.caption Hutto Detention Center

Two Sundays ago at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Austin, I joined a large congregation for a prayer service in a field outside the Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas, a prison for women waiting for their immigration hearing. Many of these are women who have been separated from their children.

Our preacher was Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Bishop Curry recently gained international attention with his sermon at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Bishop Curry is African American and he preaches with the rich cadence of that tradition. I want to share some of his words from that day.

He began: "We come in love. We come in love because we follow Jesus. And Jesus taught us love. Love the Lord your God. And love your neighbor ...

"We come in love. That is the core of our faith. That is the heart of it. And we come, because we are Christian and the way of love calls for us to be humanitarian. It calls for us to care for those who have no one to care for them. And we come because we don't believe that a great nation like this one separates children from their families. We come because we believe that this nation is conceived in liberty, dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal. We believe that we must call this nation America back to its very soul! We are here because we love this nation. 'Cause if you really love somebody you don't leave them the way they are. You help them to become their best selves. We are here to save the soul of America. Save the soul of America!"

Bishop Curry talked about the impact of seeing the Statue of Liberty out the left side of the airplane whenever he returns from his North Carolina home to his office in New York City. Inscribed on the book she holds is a date: July 4, 1776, the date of the Declaration of Independence, where "you will find these words, 'We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men' -- all people, all people -- 'are created equal.'

"Not just American people, no, but all people, wherever they come from. People from Honduras, people from Mexico, people from Costa Rica, people from Venezuela, people from Asia, people from Africa, people from Europe, all people are created equal. All!

"Now I think that's America. And then the text goes on in the Declaration of Independence, all people are created equal, and they are endowed by their Creator, not by Congress, not by a parliament, not by a potentate, not by a president, endowed by the Creator, with certain unalienable -- unalienable rights, that cannot be abridged or cannot be amended because they derive from God! Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, That's the American way. We come in love. We come because we believe in loving your neighbor. And we come because we love America and we want America to be true to her highest self."

Bishop Curry then quoted Emma Lazarus' poem engraved on the Statue of Liberty.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch in her hand.

Her flame is the flame of imprisoned lightning.

And her name -- hear me, America -- her name is Mother of Exiles. From her beaconed hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

And this is what she says:

"Keep ancient lands your storied pomp!" cries she,

With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shores.

Send these the homeless, the tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my torch before the golden door."

The Bishop continued, "America! America! Means welcome! Welcome! Come God's children! America means welcome.

"We come because we are people of love. We love those who seek refuge from war and violence and hardship. We come because we want America to truly be great."

The Bishop closed with a quote from Alexander de Tocqueville. "He met the peoples of America, and de Tocqueville wrote, and I quote, 'America is great because America is good.'

"Let us make America great again, by making America good, by making America kind, by making America just, by making America loving! Let us make America great again!"

Commentary on 07/17/2018

Print Headline: Goodness makes America great

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