Rev. Peter Faass
These words are taken from the Rev. Faass' reflection, which he incorporated into his sermon on Sunday, January 29.
February 3, 2017 will mark the 60th anniversary of the SS Zuiderkruis (Southern Cross) arriving in New York harbor with my family on board. Having embarked from Rotterdam on January 21st, the Zuiderkruis encountered turbulent North Atlantic winter storms, making it an arduous thirteen-day crossing instead of the anticipated ten.
Hundreds of Dutch people were on board. They were leaving the Netherlands, a country economically struggling with high unemployment rates and inadequate housing after World War II. Exacerbating these conditions was a 1953 North Sea storm that breached many dikes protecting the lowlands. Floods affected thousands of hectares of land, leading to significant losses of human life and livestock. These immigrants were seeking a new life where they could work, find good homes, provide for their families and lead better lives.
As the ship entered New York Harbor, she passed the Statue of Liberty. On deck were a young husband and wife with their two year, four month old son. That little boy was me. The photo above shows us leaving Rotterdam with me on my father's shoulders and my mother waving to her parents. While my parents could not see the plaque with Emma Lazarus’ poem, “The New Colossus,” on the statue’s base, the message was explicitly clear to them as Lady Liberty raised her torch, a beacon of hope for all who came to America.
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Lazarus’ words are a sacred promise. They morally and ethically define who we are as Americans. Lady Liberty’s promise is not just extended to white European Christians; it is for people of all nations, races and creeds. If it is not, if we limit the rays of Liberty’s beacon of light and hope and the promise of a better life to those who are seeking it (for whatever reason), that promise becomes meaningless. We are seriously diminished as a people.
This week, we’ve confronted the new administration’s wanton and reckless behavior as a moral rather than a political conflict. This behavior threatens the very fiber of our souls as Americans, and for me as follower of Jesus.
As a fortunate little boy, I had to endure a bad storm at sea, but I arrived here alive. I’ve also had a wonderful and productive life as an American citizen. My boat did not sink and my lifeless body did not wash up on a Turkish beach or elsewhere as my parents sought a better life for me.
I want my fortune and blessings to belong to all who seek a better life on these shores, regardless of their religious faith, the color of their skin, or their national origin. I will do everythng in my power to make that so.
The Reverend Peter Faass
The Reverend Peter Faass was born in Delft, Netherlands. He is a graduate of the General Theological Seminary in New York City and has been at Christ Church since 2006.