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Harvest of Empire: One-Session Screening and Discussion


Note: In addition to a monitor and either streaming or DVD version of the film, please set up your room with a large writing pad or whiteboard for the discussion portions. You may also wish to have a chalice available for the gathering time. The screening and discussion will take approximately 2.5 hours.



Please invite everyone present to center themselves with a few deep breaths and a moment of quiet. You may want to light a chalice, or you can simply give people a few minutes to get centered and then offer the opening words.


A Promise to People Who Migrate, From the Teachings of Many Faiths

The travelers shall not lodge outside,
For I will open my doorway to them;
When I meet them on the road
I will invite the strangers in,
And give food to those who hunger,
And water to those who thirst,
And do good both to the neighbor
And to the wayfarer at my side.
There will be one law and judgment only
For citizen and foreigner alike;
Nor shall I oppress the stranger,
For I know the hearts of strangers:
I too was a stranger, I recall,
When in the land of Egypt.
I will not follow the crowd of many,
When it seeks to do injustice,
Nor make of my caravan a cloister
And vessel of despair.
This too I promise, that I will:
Give kindness to those who suffer,
Be a friend to those in  need,
And assuage the sorrow of others,
Conforming not to expectations,
But being compassionate always and acting
In a spirit of love.

–Adapted by Joshua Leach from Jewish, Christian, Muslim and  Buddhist teachings

Allow a few more moments of silence before entering the pre-film discussion.

Preliminary Exploration (10m)

Please designate someone from your group to take notes on a board or large paper during this first exercise.

Ask participants to reflect together on what they already know about the reasons why people migrate to the United States from Latin America and attempt to cross the border.

  • What are some of the motivations today’s migrants might have?
  • What draws them here to the United States?
  • What propels them away from their countries of birth?

Put their answers up as a list. As much as possible, encourage people to generate and add to the ideas but not engage in discussing them at this point.

Film Screening (90m)

Please dim the lights and show “Harvest of Empire” to the group. At the conclusion of the film you may want to invite a short break before beginning the discussion.

Reflection (5m)

Please invite group members to bring their attention back to the film. Before discussing anything out loud, invite the group to spend a few minutes in silent reflection and to write down a few notes in answer to these questions:

  • When you think of the film you have just seen, what are the first scenes that spring to mind?
  • What did you find most striking, revelatory, painful or inspiring about the film?
Discussion: PT 1 (20m)

After this time of reflection, invite participants to share with the group some of their insights, impressions and feelings. Some or all of the following questions may be useful for this conversation:

  1. Did any of the moments of emotional intensity you identified change the way you perceive the problems and political struggles around immigration policy?
  2. What seems to you the most important take-away from this film – that is, the insight, reminder or new information that feels most crucial?
Discussion: PT 2 (25m)

Please turn back to the list you made at the beginning of the session.

  • Is there anything you would like to add to the list?
  • Is there anything you would like to remove, or that seems less important to you?
  • Are there reasons on the original list that you regard in a different light?

Please read this statement to the group:

The UU commitment to human rights is deeply rooted in our religious heritage. The Universalist message from the very beginning emphasized that all people have value, and that the saving power of divine love recognizes no eternal distinctions between them. The early Unitarians rejected the doctrines of original sin and absolute depravity, and replaced them with a faith in the human capacity to bring good into the world. This theological inheritance is reflected in our seven principles today, from our first principle of the inherent worth and dignity of all people, down to our last principle of respect for the independent web of existence.

  • In what ways can this inheritance of ideas provide guidance to us today in grappling with the issues posed by the film?
  • What “next steps” would you like to see your congregation (or the group that has watched and discussed the film) take together, either for further education or for action?

If you have lighted a chalice, it can be extinguished after sharing this prayer/poem.

Prayer for Travelers 

This is a prayer for all the travelers.
For the ones who start out in beauty,
who fall from grace,
who step gingerly,
looking for the way back.
And for those who are born into the margins,
who travel from one liminal space to another,
crossing boundaries in search of center.

This is a prayer for the ones whose births
are a passing from darkness to darkness,
who all their lives are drawn toward the light,
and keep moving,
and for those whose journeys
are a winding road that begins
and ends in the same place,
though only when the journey is completed
do they finally know where they are.

For all the travelers, young and old,
aching and joyful,
weary and full of life;
the ones who are here, and the ones who are not here;
the ones who are like you (and they’re all like you)
and the ones who are different (for in some ways, we each travel alone). This is a prayer for traveling mercies,
And sure-footedness,
for clear vision,
for bread
for your body and spirit,
for water,
for your safe arrival
and for everyone you see along the way.

— Angela Herrera

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