Covid19: What has changed for refugees and our church?

By 30th June 2020 Stories

Online training: Thursday 18 June

It is fair to say that, over the last few months, the UK has been in crisis! Our lives, our churches and our communities look very different as a result of the impact of Covid19. Depending on how you are able to respond, crises have the potential to breed innovation. They also have the potential to make us grind to a halt! We respond to crises as individuals, and as groups – in particular as churches.

For us as refugee Welcomers, what has been happening?

  • There have been arrivals of asylum seekers in unexpected places as councils have sought to safely accommodate people due to Covid19.
  • There has been more inter-organisational referring and relationships being built.
  • As refugee workers/Welcomers, some of us have felt isolated or have had difficult personal circumstances. Others have enjoyed a rest and it has kept us from burnout. Others have had an explosion of new work.

For our refugee neighbours there has been a variety of experiences:

  • Some are glad to be ‘locked down’, a relief from facing their new world.
  • Some are used to having their freedom curtailed – it’s something familiar.
  • Others are more cut off from everything – limited social groups in the UK, really missing groups they attended and support they received through churches and other groups.
  • There is a noticeable difference in experience between more settled (and resettled) refugees and those who are still in the asylum process.
  • All have faced losses of months of integration into UK life, learning English, making new friends. Some also face challenges of children not being in school, not fully understanding government rules or not being eligible for financial support.

Being intentional is key at the moment – it’s good to reflect on what your church has done so far and to think about how to be intentional over the coming weeks.

Questions to consider:

What has the impact of taking your church online been for refugees wanting to connect with you?

  • There is the benefit of still being able to ‘join in’. For example, refugee women in particular may be able to participate in things in the evening that they normally aren’t able to due to lack of childcare.
  • Challenges of lack of internet data are significant
  • It can be difficult to follow things online if you have English as a second language

How has your church support changed your welcome and support of refugees and asylum seekers?

  • Have you been able to meet newly-arrived refugees or asylum seekers during the lockdown? Many places have experienced challenges of doing this.
  • Support has needed to become a lot more relational and personal – a church can no longer rely on the ‘activities’ but need to be very intentional in their approach.
  • It has possibly limited the number of people you can support at one time.

Are you starting to re-group at all in your refugee welcoming [ie starting to doorstep visit, meeting at the park in small groups?]

  • Think about lack of transport options- you can’t take people in your car so you will need to think about meeting in an easily accessible place.

How do you think you can welcome refugees into church life if you start meeting in small groups in the coming months? Let’s build our connections again.

  • Meet in sixes outside
  • Visit doorsteps (Some refugees are fearful about going out again and some won’t be. Think through what you will be happy with doing within the guidelines. You may be invited in; it’s ok to say no.
  • 4 people on a Whatsapp call (Many find Whatsapp to be more accessible to refugees than Zoom is).

Want to join in with Welcome Churches’ online training in the future? Click here more details

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