WIN Annual Reports April 2019 Midyear Report | Page 15

2 0 1 9 M I D YE AR RE P O RT 14 top leader profile: MARIA SWEARINGEN Rev. Maria Swearingen became involved in WIN when she began her current role as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in downtown DC. Calvary was already a WIN member institution when she arrived, so she came in wanting to understand how Calvary understood its part in WIN’s work in the city. She found that “being a part of WIN is in the fabricate of how Calvary’s congregation understands itself and how it participates in justice and equity in DC.” Rev. Maria Swearingen Calvary Baptist Church Pastor Maria Swearingen and her congregation at Calvary Baptist Church organized with WIN to help secure $2.5 million for immigrants' legal services funding. Maria came to DC by way of Texas. She is the child of a Puerto Rican mother, and she grew up in a house that was bilingual and biethnic in a small town in Texas that was neither of those things. “I have always been conscious of that line between citizen and immigrant, English and Spanish speaking," Maria said. "Those were all blurred for me. They were in my household all at once, and my whole life was making sense of these varying identities.” At Calvary, one-third of the congregation is Latino-American, and many are immigrants from El Salvador. “Each carry a particular story about how they got to DC, how they stay here, and whether they will be able to stay,” she said. The more she understands the immigration system, the more she sees how it's tied to their stories. In her role as pastor, Maria spends a lot of time driving members of her congregation to immigration or residency appointments, figuring out where in the asylum process they are, or keeping up with the rapidly shifting political context. “If I’m struggling to figure this out,” she says, “with my English fluency, my access to resources, my residency.” She pauses, shakes her head, and says of her congregants, “they’re my teachers every day.” Calvary Baptist was deeply involved in the successful push for $2.5 million from the city for immigrants’ legal services funding. “What I’ve learned from WIN,” Maria said, reflecting on this campaign, “is that we really can build better things when we’re working together at it.” I asked her what it felt like, as a pastor, to see so many members of her congregation turn out to the budget forums with WIN. “I’m reminded that solidarity is such a rich spiritual discipline,” she said, “showing up whether the thing is impacting you or not. Because within your sacred community, it is affecting the people who you hold beloved, and it has become yours.”