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Thomas Getman to speak at Union Chapel

Thomas Getman, an expert in the world-wide refugee crisis, will speak on Sunday, Aug. 14 at 10:30 a.m. at Union Chapel in the Grove. Music will be provided by organist and Music Director Linda Betjeman and Jean Hendrickson playing flute. All are welcome to the interdenominational service. 

The Scripture reading that Mr. Getman chose, the Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 25, tells the parable of the sheep and the goats, which may sum up Mr. Getman’s life’s work: “I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me … Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” 

Mr. Getman is currently involved in Afghan and Ethiopian refugee resettlement and migrant service and works in partnership with Good Neighbors (9 faith communities) Capitol Hill, and Lutheran Social Services. He is also working on the papers and oral history archives of the late Sen. Mark O. Hatfield with Dr. Randall Balmer of Dartmouth College. Mr. Getman was a Congressional legislative director and speechwriter for Sen. Hatfield.

The title of his talk, “Divided on Almost Everything,” will focus on how caring for “the stranger” and refugee is “a way to civil discourse, healing and blessings,” he said. He’ll address the nexus of faith and public life, as he chose not to become an ordained minister, but instead became “a deacon for public ministry through legislative and humanitarian work.” 

Mr. Getman said, after his 40-year career in ministry, government and NGO/UN work, “My goal is to link friends with friends who will advance the network of skilled, compassionate, and reconciling people who reduce the suffering of the poor and oppressed, especially in the Middle East and Southern Africa.”

Until he retired in 2009, he was World Vision’s executive director for international relations, managing World Vision’s liaison activities with the UN and the World Council of Churches and was responsible for diplomatic relations with UN government member missions in Geneva, Switzerland. 

He served on the board of principals for the UN Deputy Secretary General for Emergency Relief in the UN Office of the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and as chair of a premier NGO consortium the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA).

He plans to use an especially poignant prayer as part of the service, adapted from Dr. Jane Deren, that includes this final blessing: 

May we be blessed 

With compassion for those

Still weary, still seeking,

Still with so far to go.  

An outdoor reception, catered by Stars Café, will follow the service. Our commemorative book, “All Are Welcome: 150 years of Shelter Island’s Union Chapel in the Grove,” by Carrie Cooperider, is available after the service or at Finley’s Fiction.