Church communities across London mark Refugee Week with “Stories of Welcome”

Church communities across London mark Refugee Week with “Stories of Welcome”

22 June 2022 by Pattie Gercke in Refugee & Asylum.

“Every time we welcome someone into our country, our church communities, our homes and our lives – we are welcoming Christ”

To begin Refugee Week 2022 a joint ecumenical event was held on Monday evening to celebrate the welcome that London church communities of all denominations offer to refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers.

The Bishop of Stepney opened in prayer using words from the Magnificat and said this:

“Refugee Week reminds us of the vital work of supporting refugees, migrants and asylum seekers, and encouraging churches to be places of welcome.

We know that God looks with compassion on all his children, especially those who are displaced and marginalised.”

The Rt Revd Dr Joanne Woolway Grenfell, Bishop of Stepney, Diocese of London

This was followed by the premiere of the first of five films produced for Refugee Week 2022. These films, available HERE, are case studies of church communities in London and east Surrey welcoming asylum seekers, migrants and refugees from all over the world.

They are one of the resources produced for Refugee Week as a collaborative project between the Diocese of London, the Diocese of Southwark and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster.

These films include the work of St James’s Piccadilly, supporting asylum seekers from the LGBTQI+ community, and of St Paul’s Marylebone, who embraced the opportunity to offer a welcome for Afghan refugees accommodated in a local hotel.

St Paul’s was offered as a safe space and, in conversation with the Afghan women, it became a place where they could come together each week and sew clothes.

Sewing machines were acquired through a grant from the Benefact Trust, fabric was donated, local churches volunteered to help, and each week between eight and fifteen women came along to be together socially and make their own clothes.

The video sees the community at St Paul’s talk about the impact the relationships with the Afghan families have had on the life of the church.

“It’s a real privilege to see the way in which these relationships have shaped our community and will continue to shape us - both through the legacy of the women’s sewing project, and with the families who have been housed here as we live alongside one another in this parish.”

The Revd Clare Dowding, Rector of St Paul’s Marylebone and Area Dean of Marylebone

There followed a keynote address by The Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster who said this:

“As we come to hear these Stories of Welcome, we must remember refugees, migrants and asylum seekers are like ourselves…but their common experience is of being dehumanised.

Welcoming the stranger is integral to the human faith, not an add on. Human beings are of infinite worth and a dignity. Anything that impinges on the humanity of refugees has to be resisted.”

The Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, The Rt Revd Paul McAleenan

There was also powerful testimony given by Maimuna Jawo, originally from the Gambia who has been in the asylum system for over 10 years.

The Bishop of Southwark concluded with a keynote address, reminding us that:

“…every time we welcome someone into our country, our church communities, our homes and our lives – we are welcoming Christ.”

The Bishop of Southwark, The Right Revd Christopher Chessun

He referred also to the beautiful booklets of stories of welcome, published for Refugee Week, which share stories of church communities across London such as those supporting those fleeing war in Ukraine, those hosting destitute women seeking asylum through the Housing Justice Hosting scheme, or those assembling Welcome Boxes for asylum seekers.

“These stories of welcome are so much more than words and pictures on a page or a screen.

Every single story speaks of hearts that are open to the poor, the lonely and the vulnerable; hearts that rejoice in helping and welcoming, and hearts which are refreshed and renewed by loving service and unexpected blessings of friendship and connection.”

The Bishop of Southwark, The Right Revd Christopher Chessun

The resources also celebrate stories of welcome from our London schools, with accounts of embracing new classmates from Hong Kong and conversations with Catherine Gladwell from Refugee Education UK, and Catherine Allard, Headteacher at one of our schools on welcoming young refugees and asylum seekers to our churches and schools.

You can find all of the resources mentioned above HERE, as well as details of two follow-up information events:

Pattie Gercke

Pattie Gercke

Pattie is the Compassionate Communities Development Worker for Refugee& Aslyum Seeker response, Housing & Homelessness. She has a background in international development and is completing an MA in Development and Emergency Practice. She is passionate about issues of justice, hospitality, and community.

View all posts by Pattie Gercke

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