A parish in the Diocese of Guildford has had its support and care for refugees acknowledged, by making it to the final of a nationwide competition recognising churches that have developed innovative ways to help their communities.
The parish, which cannot be identified to protect the privacy of the Syrian refugee families, was praised for its “inspirational approach to a modern day problem”, which won them second place in a field of nearly 400 other churches from across the UK.
Initially, volunteers from within the church and the diocesan refugee support adviser, Diane Peters, liaised with Guildford Borough Council to facilitate the resettlement in the parish, sourcing suitable accommodation. They then made the homes fit for purpose, cleaning, decorating and refurbishing them as required.
The refugee families were met with a warm welcome when they moved in earlier this year. Since then, the parish has continued to make them feel at home and part of the community, as well as providing practical assistance for establishing a new life in the country through English lessons, childcare and teaching skills such as furniture making.
As one of six finalists the parish wins £2,000, which was presented to them at an awards ceremony at St Martin-in-the-Fields church in London last week.
Diocesan refugee support adviser, Diane Peters, spoke of her pride in the parish’s achievement: “We are delighted with this award which not only recognises the love and compassion of this parish for their neighbours but celebrates their collaborative working with members of other denominations and faiths.”
She added: “There is potential for more parishes to contribute in this way as more refugees are resettled in the UK – but the shortage of available accommodation in our diocese limits us currently. We really need people to come forward if they have a rental property that could be used to rehome a family.”
The competition, run by independent church insurer Ecclesiastical, was open to any Anglican church in the UK that has been involved in helping its community in the last year. There were 372 entries in total from across the UK, attracting a huge range of ideas and highlighting just how much churches are helping communities.
To find out more about parish activities supporting refugees and how to get involved, go to www.cofeguildford.org.uk/refugees. If you have a two- or three-bedroom rental property available, please email Diane Peters.