Time and time again Welcome Churches has been encouraged by the way the Church has stepped up to be at the forefront of welcoming those seeking refuge in the UK.
After the rapid takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban in August 2021 approximately 20,000 people arrived in the UK, almost overnight, and the UK church mobilised to welcome Afghan families and provide practical help.
Amidst the tragedy of the war in Ukraine, we have once again seen stories of hope emerging from the UK church as they welcome refugees into their communities.
The government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme has enabled people to welcome arrivals from Ukraine into their own homes. This scheme is not without its challenges, and we know that refugees need more than just safe accommodation to feel welcomed and begin rebuilding their lives.
We have therefore been encouraged by stories of churches gathering around Ukrainians in their communities as well as their hosts to provide holistic support, living out the biblical mandate to welcome the stranger.
Churches across the UK have taken the initiative, often starting small, to offer support to Ukrainian arrivals. Many churches have begun by opening a hub for Ukrainian refugees, serving as a community space for Ukrainians and hosts in their local area.
Since Easter, Gold Hill baptist church in Buckinghamshire has run a drop-in cafe twice a week, offering English lessons to over 40 Ukrainians, and a space where guests and hosts can meet together.
Hosting is a significant undertaking, and it is great to see church communities coming together to support those who are hosting and their guests.
Stephen from Gold Hill Baptist Church shared that “What I have found is through opening the building is we have become the focal point in the village(s) for provision of support for Ukrainian guests and as a result, our church, and I specifically, have had a massive increase in the number of connections with people across the community.”
As well as new connections being made within the local community through their work with Ukrainians, Gold Hill Baptist Church has also been able to connect with a church in Ukraine through one of the guests attending their Sunday service.
This has provided the opportunity to build a relationship with and pray specifically for the needs of this church.
Nantwich Elim Church in Cheshire has also set up a cafe on their site as a weekly hub for Ukrainians and their hosts.
This has been particularly successful in providing Ukrainians with somewhere they can meet and converse in their own language, and also a place where hosts can share experiences, advice and support one another.
They have especially experienced God working through the friendships forged at the hub. Sue, who was appointed as evacuees co-ordinator at Nantwich Elim, says “As there is a soft play area many people come to the café with their children or meet up socially. So, it is not an exclusive space for our Ukrainian guests and means that children, whatever their nationality, can play together without any language barrier, allowing the adults (guests and sponsors) to chat and share experiences and ideas.”
The Church community recently invited hosts and their Ukrainian guests to their Jubilee event and had great fun celebrating together.
Welcome Churches continues to support churches as they welcome refugees into their community. If you are part of a church that is supporting Ukrainians, you can find all upcoming events that Welcome Churches is running on this page.
This article was firs published on the EEA’s website and re-published with permission.