Supporting Refugees

Our latest project since January 2022 ….

In March 2023 all 5 Methodist Churches in Brighton and Hove achieved Church of Sanctuary status. We are the first Circuit of Sanctuary in the United Kingdom.  Rev Dr Inderjit Bhogal preached at our Circuit Service to celebrate the awards, read the full story here:  Brighton and Hove, first Methodist churches to become Churches of Sanctuary

Our vision is to make our Circuit a Sanctuary for All, where all feel safe and welcomed, including those fleeing violence, conflict and persecution. We will live out God’s purpose and mission and offer hospitality, kindness, love and sanctuary to all through witness and service. We seek to build a culture of outreach and service by identifying and responding to the needs of those experiencing relocation and displacement. Through this project we are sharing our commitment to support and advocate for people seeking Sanctuary and their families, working collaboratively in partnership with individuals and local groups.

Our Refugee Project Steering Group is made up of representatives from the Circuit and its churches. They are people who have a keen interest and desire to support people seeking Sanctuary and their families in the Brighton and Hove area, through this project.

The group has overview of the vision of the project and each member plays a vital role in contributing ideas and recommendations, implementing actions, making decisions and ensuring the project is progressing effectively.

The Group works collaboratively and collegially with each other. We endeavour to meet once every quarter but are in touch with each other regularly via emails and occasionally in person.

The steering group is:

  • Sue Harrington and Ruth Samur, Circuit Project Co-Leads
  • Kay Harwood, Lead & Rev. Dan Woodhouse, Minister, Patcham Methodist Church
  • Robert Patching, Lead, Stanford Avenue Methodist Church
  • Terry Hammond, Lead, Woodingdean Methodist Church
  • Sue Harrington, Lead, Dorset Gardens Methodist Church
  • Ruth Samur, Lead, Hove Methodist Church
  • Rev. Cynthia Park, Supernumerary Minister, Brighton and Hove Methodist Circuit

If you are interested in volunteering, donating, or would like to learn more about our Sanctuary journey or current activities, please get in touch with Sue at  07943 401608.  If you are a Sanctuary charity or organisation interested in use of our church spaces, contact us to put you in touch with our church administrative offices, or you can contact our church offices direct.

Current Focus

What we are doing:

  1. Our churches have signed the City of Sanctuary Organisation Pledge to affirm our commitment to support refugees all the way through.
  2. We have put the ‘Refugees and Asylum Seekers welcome here’ CoS poster on our church doors.
  3. We are at the start of our Sanctuary Journey and we continue to learn, embed and share all about Sanctuary within our church communities and beyond.
  4. We continue to learn about the issues involved, for example by attending Webinars and local events on this topic. We invite sanctuary charities and people with lived experience into our churches to share their story. We keep up to date with what is going on locally, via the Brighton & Hove Refugee & Migrant Forum and via our contacts at Sanctuary on Sea and other local specialist Sanctuary charities & organisations.
  5. We embed the Circuit Refugee project within the everyday life of our church communities. For example, Refugee Week is an integral part of our church calendar. We include all our community in the Circuit Project, the very young, our Community Hubs, peoples with busy working lives and our older members.
  6. We share what we are doing within our local community and beyond. For example, via this web page, our church News notes and our Circuit quarterly magazine. We publicise and attend local Sanctuary events. For example, in Spring 2023, several of us joined hundreds of locals to welcome Little Amal, a Syrian Puppet to Brighton Seafront. Little Amal had walked all the way from the Turkish border with Syria to Brighton. If you want to read more, click here. In October 2023, we gave a talk about our Sanctuary Journey at the Brighton and Hove Faith in Action group, for other local faith groups interested in Sanctuary. Future local talks & workshops are planned.
  7. We encourage and support others to consider joining the Sanctuary movement.
  8. Some members of our congregations are currently and, in the past, have offered accommodation & hospitality to Ukrainian families.

Key Activities:

  • ‘Myth-busting’ Community Breakfast launch event, Spring 2022. A re-launch Community Breakfast event is planned in Spring 2024
  • Talks to listen to stories from people with lived experience & Sanctuary charity workers (we make a donation to each speaker’s chosen charity)
  • Refugee Week events, services, collections, donations & Refugee Week themed Messy Church for young families
  • 2 foodbank donation points in our Circuit, with links to a local Sanctuary charity
  • Regularly collect clothing & toiletries for local charities working with Sanctuary seeking people residing in local hotels, including at Harvest time.
  • Organise fund-raising events
  • Use our crafting skills to decorate our church spaces with temporary (eg a themed Christmas tree) and permanent (eg a ‘Refugees Welcome’ tapestry banner including our Sanctuary logo) reminders of Sanctuary.
  • Designed and produced fund-raising goods to sell, from knitted goods to beautifully illustrated awareness raising note-cards, Christmas cards & tote bags. The Christmas cards included Artwork produced by the children of a local refugee family who have been associated with one of our churches for a long time.  Some of our note cards were designed by members of the Network of International Women Brighton & Hove Art Class members, others by our wonderful local Artist, Shirley Veater.
  • Work closely with Sanctuary on Sea and other local Sanctuary organisations & charities, including some financial donations. Charities we work with include Voices in Exile, the Network for International Women Brighton & Hove, Care4Calais, Thousand4K & Jollof Cafe to name but a few.
  • Offered use of our church/meeting spaces. For example, Brighton & Hove Interfaith Contact Group have held Vigils for Ukraine at Hove Methodist Church in Spring 2022 & 2023. Jollof Cafe, a local community lunch club run by Refugees, held a very well-attended pop up Evening event at Dorset Gardens Methodist Church in Autumn 2023, another is planned for November 2023.
  • We hold the Circuit Project, Sanctuary Seekers and Sanctuary charities and organisations in our thoughts and prayers.
  • We open our hearts and buildings to become a place of welcome, hospitality and inclusion for everyone.

Previous Events

Sunday 30 October ‘A Sanctuary for All’ service

The Circuit Together service at Stanford Avenue Methodist Church on 30 October featured the theme ‘A Sanctuary for All’ and included speaker Angie Lynn from Sanctuary on Sea, followed by Q&A and conversation over coffee following the service.

Refugee Week

Refugee Week is now embedded in our church calendar, culminating each year in our church services on Refugee Sunday.  Our Messy Church at Hove in Refugee week has a Refugee week theme.

Since 2022, all our five churches have shared a range of related resources and ideas to utilise in Refugee Sunday services. For example, in 2022, at Hove the church service was led by Deeptima Massey, Ruth Samur and Fiona Sharpe, Co-Founder and Trustee of the Network of International Women Brighton and Hove. Fiona spoke about the refugee experience in Brighton & Hove, and how we can help. She reminded the congregation that the character of Paddington Bear, seen having tea with the Queen, was originally inspired by the child refugees escaping Nazi Germany on the Kindertransport. There was a moving space of prayer during which candles were lit to re-affirm a commitment to support people fleeing danger to our community, and to ensure their safety and well-being. At Dorset Gardens Revd Cynthia Park led the service with a powerful sermon by Avanka Fernando and an interview with Andrew Jackson about his work with Voices in Exile. At Woodingdean, they looked at ‘Welcoming the Stranger’ from Genesis 18 and the Emmaus story. One member talked about how their son has welcomed a Ukrainian lady into their home (under the Government’s scheme) and now awaits 2 of her children who are in Poland, her son has to stay in Ukraine to fight. In 2023, our Refugee Week services were enriched by a further range of contributors, including the Migrant English Project and a traditional Ukrainian singing group.

Myth-busting community breakfast

We held a launch breakfast event on 5 March 2022 at Hove Methodist Church when we shared some facts about the refugee situation and introduced the circuit project. View photos from the event. As well as delicious bacon butties and tasty falafel wraps, there was a myth busting quiz which promoted lively discussion and some moving videos summarising key issues. A refugee from Palestine gave a powerful and sometimes shocking account of his recent experiences navigating the British asylum system and the range of wider issues he and others have encountered. He also discussed continued difficulties he has experienced even after gaining his Refugee status. So his account and his question/answer session, gave everyone great pause for thought. Ruth Samur and Bob Winton from Hove Methodist Church then gave some information about the Brighton and Hove Methodist Circuit Refugee Project.

The breakfast was very well attended and £200 was raised for the DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee) Appeal for Ukraine.  In addition, sales of our Circuit Project fundraising notecards also began.  We are planning a re-launch community breakfast event in Spring 2024.

Sanctuary: working with refugees – A talk 

We have been regularly referring to Revd Dr Inderjit Bhogal’s book ‘Hospitality and Sanctuary for All’ to guide our conversations and our work with those seeking sanctuary. On the 29th March 2022 Inderjit Bhogal OBE, founder of the City of Sanctuary movement, spoke to us about his experience of working with refugees and answered questions. View poster

In March 2023, Rev Dr Inderjit Bhogal returned to our circuit to preach at our Church of Sanctuary Awards service in Dorset Gardens Methodist Church.

Fairs and markets:

We take our fundraising stall of generously donated hand-crocheted hats, scarves and shawls as well as our bags, cards and other such items, to fairs at our churches and recently at Carlton Hill school which is a School of Sanctuary.  As well as funds, this helps raise awareness and build relationships.