The Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Rt Revd Peter Hancock, has expressed his shock and upset at the refugee crisis in Europe and urged churches and local communities to respond by working with established agencies to support those affected.
In a pastoral letter sent to all licensed clergy, Bishop Peter said: “It feels as if there has been a breakdown in the human race’s ability to care for its weakest members. While the big picture of politics and civil war perplexes us, the individual tragedies go straight to our hearts. We all want to do something.
“Our churches have already been asking what they can do to help, and collections of money and goods have already been taking place on a more or less ad hoc basis. We see practical needs, and it is natural to want to help. However, rather than start up lots of small-scale collections, I would encourage churches to work through established agencies who are already working in the field. These agencies have the skills and experience to do this work – whether that be at Calais or in Jordan, the Lebanon, or Syria itself.”
Already some people in the Diocese of Bath and Wells have offered to open their home to a refugee family. Whilst Bishop Peter recognises this “generous and hospitable gesture”, he encourages individuals to work with established organisations in the first instance:
“Some people have already expressed their desire to open their home to a refugee family, offering rooms or meals. This is a generous and hospitable gesture. The time is not yet right for this to happen – we will have to wait for the Government’s relocation scheme to be worked out. When refugees arrive, churches will be in the forefront of those offering assistance, and we will need to do this well. It will not be an easy task. There will be issues of language, dealing with vulnerable and traumatised people, finding suitable schools, and so on. Again, we will do best to work with agencies who know what they are doing.”
A prayer for refugees. You may like to use this in private prayer or in church
Heavenly Father, you are the source of all goodness, generosity and love. We thank you for opening the hearts of many to those who are fleeing for their lives. Help us now to open our arms in welcome, and reach out our hands in support. That the desperate may find new hope, and lives torn apart be restored. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ Your Son, Our Lord, who fled persecution at His birth and at His last triumphed over death. Amen
Source: Diocese of Bath and Wells website, Responding to the Refugee crisis, 9th September 2015. This page also carries links to various resources for further action in response to the refugee crisis.