A group of women and children who are refugees and asylum seekers now living in Leeds have spent a day enjoying the countryside and the hospitality of the congregation at St Robert’s Church in Pannal, near Harrogate.
The Women’s Group came from Meeting Point, based at Christ Church, Upper Armley, which aims to work with refugees and asylum seekers towards social integration. It provides a range of support and friendship and community provisions including health, employment, advice, family support or food.
The link with St Robert’s Pannal began six years ago and the annual trip to the countryside has been popular with the women’s group over the past 5 years. Members of St Robert's say they look forward to seeing familiar faces return each year and to welcoming new friends to the church. There is lots of food, chat, fun and games for adults and children alike.
“It is good to find out about where people have come from and find out about how they have adapted to cultural differences.” said one of the St Robert’s volunteers. “We enjoy the feeling of providing something for this group of women they otherwise would not get.”
Despite the weather, the children had great fun playing games together, crafting, face painting and, for the younger children, riding around in the ball box (see picture). The whole group had a great game of bingo after lunch. Guests said they had a lovely day in a place where they felt truly welcomed, and the food was delicious. Donations of clothing, toys and bedding were also made by the people of St Robert’s who value the opportunity to give to such an inspiring charity.
“This kind of missional link is so valuable to the churches” said the new curate of St Robert’s, Revd. Abbie Palmer. “It enables people to reach outside of the bubbles of their own community and learn about what life is like in very different contexts. Each person has so much to share with others. In the words of our vicar, ‘God made each of us so perfectly different.’ Everyone left the church with a smile on their face.”
“I feel the link with Meeting point is so important” comments Revd John Smith, Vicar of St Robert’s. “It is so important to be reminded of what we are called to be, especially ‘to respond to human need by loving service’ and ‘to seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation’. It is a privilege to walk a little way with our visitors even if it’s only a short part of their life journey.”