How many of us today are worrying about what will happen to us after the end of the month? As March 29th approaches media reports constantly focus our attention inwards on ourselves and our own lives. However God calls us to look outwards whatever our own life may be like. He calls us to remember our neighbour, to serve in his name to share the love of Jesus by extending a welcome to those in need.
Over the last two years, as a life group, we have prayerfully looked at understanding our response to the Refugee crisis. There are references throughout the Bible to welcoming andcaring for the stranger, as in the Good Samaritan Luke 10:25-37. Jesus himself became a refugee as a child Matthew 2:13-14, and Jesus explained to his followers how they could share God’s love though everyday actions with those in need Matthew 25:35-36.
We have studied the issue of immigration and the refugee crisis from a Biblical perspective using the Churches briefing ‘Made for goodness: a faithful response to the Refugee crisis’. This has deepened our awareness and understanding of the issues, gradually leading us to become more involved locally in extending a welcome to Refugees. This has become even more relevant to us since 2017 as a number of refugee families have moved into Chester under the UNHCR resettlement programme. The number of Asylum seekers is also increasing. We have continued to develop our understanding of discipleship in sharing God’s love underpinned by prayer: individual, intercessory, and through the Prayer for the Voiceless group at St Marks.
There are opportunities for everyone to extend a welcome to refugees through prayer, through practical assistance, by raising awareness of key issues and through working towards a more positive narrative in our society. Our response includes:-
Establishing, with others, a Chester City of Sanctuary group, part of a national charity which is committed to creating a culture of welcome and safety especially for refugees and asylum seekers seeking sanctuary from war and persecution.
Assisting as volunteers with CHAWREC to support resettled Syrian families with English language conversation and classes, and by becoming befrienders.
Volunteering with SHARE to sort, pack and distribute essential items of aid for refugees and asylum seekers both abroad and resettled locally.
Engaging with local communities including the Cathedral, Storyhouse, schools and politicians to encourage their opportunities to extend a welcome in Chester
Continued involvement with the faithful Knitters for Syria based within St Marks church family.
We appreciate that St Marks Church continues to be supportive, but there is always an opportunity for additional prayer response, church action or events and individual responses to local initiatives. We would be pleased to talk to anyone about this or to share our experiences in more detail.