by Rosalind Hughes
It began with a chance encounter, a family connection; because it’s all about relationship.
It began as a simple request: can we use your building? Sara Jobin, who served until recently as resident conductor of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, had seen a film about a music camp for Syrian refugee children in New York, presented by US Together in Toledo, and thought, “We could do that here.” Jobin had recently met Tucker-Gray, the new Rector of the large Episcopal church in downtown Toledo, and thought it was worth asking if the space could be made available to help make that happen.
Tucker-Gray, despite having plenty of experience of how a simple ask can involve a lot of spinning parts and fine details, could not say no. So she said yes, then set to work with a network of volunteers, invested individuals, and community partners to help make the vision a reality.
Parish leadership identified a fund that could be used to help underwrite the inevitable costs. Volunteers signed up to provide food, registration, and support for the children. Friends and neighbors donated and solicited donations of tap shoes. The Mediterranean restaurant across the street laid on lunch for the final Friday of the camp. US Together recruited the children. Musicians from the Toledo Symphony and a local jazz combo helped put on a Friday evening show that drew more than 300 people to watch the children dance and to hear them sing I Have a Dream, local composer Craig Thompson’s setting of Martin Luther King, Jr’s iconic speech. The speech itself was also translated into Arabic, and read in English and Arabic by campers and staff, interchangeably.
The timing of the camp proved to be poignant. In the middle of the week, the US Supreme Court issued its decision upholding the third attempt by the Trump administration to restrict immigration from several countries, including Syria. Within the church, the children were welcomed each morning, and encouraged by their hosts, who were teaching them to sing God Bless America – written by an immigrant, Tucker-Gray points out. It was important, she said, for them to trust that they were safe, welcome, and loved.
Being able to provide that welcome, love, and security for a week in the middle of trying times was a gift to the community of Trinity, Toledo. As Tucker-Gray tells it, the people of the parish were able to do some real good, creating real joy and relationship through the course of the week, simply through living the gospel and loving these particular neighbors.
It makes me wonder what other good is out there, just waiting for someone to say, “I think we could do this. Will you help me?”
Let’s hope the answer is, ”We will, with God’s help.”
The Rev Rosalind Hughes is a former UK resident now happily settled in the Cleveland, OH area where she is Rector of the Church of the Epiphany in Euclid and is a contributing editor her at the Episcopal Cafe
Photos courtesy of the Revd Lisa Tucker-Gray, Trinity Episcopal Church, Toledo, Ohio