Update on the refugee response – how you can help NOW

Recently the Cathedral hosted ‘PEACE: Responding to the refugee crisis’. A video of highlights from the event is now on the diocesan web pagehttp://www.cofeguildford.org.uk/refugees, with lots of useful resources.

Since the event took place, much has been happening across the diocese. Important links have been formed between the diocesan team, the county and borough councils, charities and other key stakeholders.

Refugees arrive in the Diocese

The first group of refugees to arrive in the diocese under the resettlement programme will come directly from the refugee camps in Lebanon in early December, and more will be arriving soon after Christmas. This group is formed of four families, each with young children – 7 little girls, and a boy of 3 years, and a baby expected very soon.

The diocesan team are liaising with the county and borough councils to help support the families, who have been through a strict vetting process. Although they have housing allocated to them, they will have very few possessions.

Their urgent needs are:

  • Furniture (not white or electrical goods)
  • Pram and pushchairs
  • Toys
  • Vacuum cleaners
  • Crockery and cooking utensils
  • Winter clothes

Additional ongoing needs are:

  • Housing – social landlords with two or three bedroom properties
  • Storage space
  • Teachers of English as a Second Language

If you can supply any of these, please contact Diane Peters: diane.peters@cofeguildford.org.uk. For now we will keep a list of offers to match specific needs, so please do not bring any items until requested. We will update you as needs change.

Refugee camps

There is still a great need for financial donations to support refugees in camps across Europe, Lebanon and Jordan. The best way is through existing charities as they already have the people on the ground and have the expertise to use your donations well. See our list of suggested charities: http://www.cofeguildford.org.uk/refugees.

As winter sets in and the weather gets colder, the need for warm clothing for those in the camps is becoming critical. Guildford: People to People have a collection of warm clothing organised for November 28 at Guildford Borough Council. The have a very specific list of needs: http://guildfordpeople.org/events, so please check before you donate.

We would also encourage you to write to your MP to urge them to press David Cameron for a stronger response to the refugee crisis. There is aletter template on the website if you would like to use it.

Thank you for your continued time, enthusiasm and compassion to helping all refugees, whether in the camps or arriving in the UK. Please continue to hold them in your prayers.

Can you make room for a nativity set?

Knitting needles have been hard at work across Badshot Lea and Hale as the parish’s first ever ‘Knitivity’ set takes shape ready for Advent.

Mary and Joseph, kings, shepherds and a multitude of sheep are being created for the knitted Nativity set which will tour homes, offices, schools and shops in the run up to Christmas.

The creative project is being coordinated by a member of St George’s Church, Badshot Lea, Kris Lawrence, who is appealing for both knitters and hosts to step forward and make the Knitivity a truly community-based project.

She explained: “Knitivity is all about the journey as we move through Advent towards the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

“Our knitted Mary, Joseph, donkey and other characters will begin their journey from St George’s Church on Advent Sunday – 29th November at 10am. From there they will travel around the parish, staying in a different home each night during Advent, and at each home one of the sheep will be left.

“We hope that during the day they will turn up in some of the more public places within the parish, such as shops, schools and offices. We will chart their journey with pictures on our Facebook page so that everyone can be part of the journey and prepare for Christmas with us.

“Finally, all the sheep will be re-united at the Christmas Day services in church – 9.30am at St John’s, 10am at St George’s and 11am at St Mark’s.

“We would love to hear from any hosts or keen knitters. We will be knitting throughout October and November and everyone is welcome to join in.”

The Revd Lesley Crawley, a priest in the parish, explained: “I hope we will have great fun with Knitivity this Advent. It’s a wonderful way of binding us together as a community as we reflect on the real meaning of Christmas and share hospitality with one another in our homes.”

If you would like to be involved, either by knitting or hosting the Knitivity set then contact Kris on 01252 327832/07876 204665 krislawr@aol.com

What is a Christingle?

Christingle services have been taking place all over the country for the past 47 years. In that time, Christingle has grown to become an incredibly popular event, embraced by people from all areas of society. The services include songs and prayers, as well as a collection to help support The Children’s Society, so that they can keep working with some of the country’s most disadvantaged children.

The highlight of the Christingle service involves the lighting of the Christingle candles. You can see what a Christingle looks like above. It is a great way to teach children the story of the gospel and its significance to Christians.

At St Mark’s the Christingle Service this year will be on 29th Nov at 11am and at St George’s it will be celebrated on 31st January during the Family Praise Service at 11:30am.

Spiritual but not Religious Book Club

After the first meeting, thoroughly enjoyed by those who came, we will be meeting again to discuss “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion.

NPR had this to say about it:

“Joan Didion’s memoir ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ is about grieving for her husband, fellow writer John Gregory Dunne… In her memoir, Didion contemplates how the rituals of daily life are fundamentally altered when her life’s companion is taken from her. Her impressions, both sharply observed and utterly reasonable, form a picture of an intelligent woman grappling with her past and future.”

The books are taken from the Huffington Post’s list, and we will be choosing the next one at the meeting.

Just come along to our house, 25 Upper Hale Road, GU9 0NX at 7:30 on 21st January 2016.

PEACE: Responding to the Refugee Crisis

“Love the foreigner who lives amongst you” (Leviticus 19.34)

 PEACE: Responding to the Refugee Crisis

Guildford Cathedral

20th October 2015

My response to the refugee crisis – and maybe you’re the same – has been what Bishop Andrew calls “a mixture of compassion and confusion”. I feel called to do something, but worry that I don’t have all the facts and that what I do might be too little, or not what’s really needed.

I therefore volunteered to attend this conference on behalf of Alan and Lesley, with the brief to report back to the parish. Around 200 people from across the diocese were there to hear the latest facts, discuss options and identify the best response at a parish and individual level.

Led by Bishop Andrew, an impressive panel of speakers included the Chair of the Refugee Council, the Church of England’s Home Affairs Policy Advisor, the Director of World Church Programmes and a senior figure from Surrey County Council. Whilst they touched on the plight of refugees across the world and the situation at Calais, the primary focus was on the current crisis in Syria. Key facts about the practical challenges on the ground were brought to life by individual stories – a reminder that we are talking about real people who just want respite from a situation that is completely beyond our experience.

The messages were clear:

  • There is a fundamental difference between a refugee and an economic migrant: the vast majority of these people are fleeing war and would much prefer to be able to remain in their home country
  • 20, 000 people over 5 years is a drop in the ocean
  • We can and should do more
  • We are not going to be ‘swamped’ by the numbers being proposed and do have time to prepare for their arrival (likely to be in the New Year)
  • We don’t need to re-invent the wheel: agencies and processes exist to help
  • A lot is already happening behind the scene: in the face of government inertia, these agencies are working together to prepare a joint response
  • Coordination and the avoidance of duplication are therefore vital
  • We can all do our bit – even if it’s in a very small way!
  • This is for the long term: whatever we do, it needs to have solid foundations and be sustainable

So what can you and I do? The next few months will see a great deal of preparation on the part of agencies at a national and local level. You can stay in touch with what’s going on, share ideas and coordinate action via the following website http://www.cofeguildford.org.uk/resources/refugee-help. A useful Facebook page (Farnham Help for Refugees in UK and Overseas) has also been created to promote local activities.

In the meantime, think carefully and realistically about what you might be able to do, both now, and over the longer term. A few of us may be able to offer a spare room to a family, or be able to foster an unaccompanied child, but this won’t be for everyone. Each of us will be able to do something however – whether it’s a cake sale to raise money, donating clothes, toiletries and toys so needed by charities on the ground, or simply writing to our MP. As Maurice Wren from the Refugee Council put it: “Never underestimate the power of a clogged up inbox to get an MP moving!”

Conference attendees were reminded of what the Dalai Lama once said: “If you are feeling insignificant in this world and feel that you have no impact on those around you, you’ve clearly never been in bed with a mosquito!”

Let’s be mosquitos!

Rachel Holmes

November 2015