Huge congratulations to the first Methodist churches in Britain to achieve Church of Sanctuary status.
All five Methodist churches from the Brighton and Hove Methodist Circuit have just received the Church of Sanctuary award; Dorset Gardens, Patcham, Stanford Avenue, Woodingdean and Hove.
Revd Andy Lowe, Superintendent Minister of the Brighton and Hove Methodist Circuit, commented, “As individual churches and as a circuit we feel that there is a gospel call for us to be places where welcome, hospitality and inclusion are the norm. Loving our neighbour whoever they are, wherever they come from, is central to our faith and must be at the heart of all we do. Receiving these certificates and recognition is not an end in itself but just a mark in an ongoing journey to live out that command to love.”
The founder of the City of Sanctuary movement, the Rev’d Inderjit Bhogal, preached at the service to celebrate the awards and commented, “This recognition of the support that these churches offer migrants comes at an important time when our government is making coming to the UK seeking sanctuary increasingly difficult.
“Applying for ‘asylum’ is not a crime, but criminalising people for even trying to get to a safe place is a crime against humanity. Detaining and deporting them without even considering their story and claim is immoral and unethical. Those who exploit already vulnerable people making money from them are those committing crime. Stop them, don’t stop the boats. Government also should halt inhumane responses to a human catastrophe, and already vulnerable human beings.”
Angie Lynn is the local Lead for Schools of Sanctuary and for Churches of Sanctuary in Brighton and Hove. She commented, “Brighton and Hove City of Sanctuary, also known as Sanctuary on Sea, has been proud to support the Methodist Circuit to achieve these well-earned awards. We are delighted to applaud them as the first Churches of Sanctuary in our city for their work and ongoing commitment to engage with refugees and asylum seekers, celebrating their positive contribution to our lives together in Brighton and Hove. The work of the five churches is inspirational, and more vital than ever as our government continues to foster hostility where we want to nurture compassion and welcome. We look forward to the Methodist circuit helping to support other churches and faith centres to achieve Sanctuary Awards in the near future.”
The five churches have all pledged their commitment to support refugees, inviting them to church to share about their fears and their lives. Church members have collected clothing for the newly arrived asylum seekers living in hotels while church buildings have been opened to host refugee social events. Some church members have offered accommodation to Ukrainian families seeking safety from the war. Refugees with an urgent need for practical help, such as assistance with school uniform and equipment for children, have been supported and food banks were established in each of the churches to provide for those living with no immigration status or seeking asylum.
The churches have also been working to change the conversation around migrants. They participated in last June’s Refugee Sunday as well as holding a joint service in November with speaker Angie Lynn from Sanctuary on Sea and a “myth-busting community breakfast” which was held to hear the stories of refugees.
Lafa is from Kurdish Syria. She came to the UK in 2019 and moved to Brighton last year. She has one son called Azad who is 17 months old and together they attend a parent and toddler group at Dorset Gardens Methodist. She said: “I really like coming to this group because I have new friends, I can speak some English words, because I met friends who speak English, and my child enjoys his time a lot. I thank everyone who provides such opportunities for refugees.”