Rev. Ivor Smith from St John’s United Reformed Church Writes:
My first involvement with the needs of those looking for sanctuary in this country was through training organised by “Coffee Break” in Ipswich. They had set up conversational English classes and were looking to have more churches running these classes. My church at Cowper Street, started one of these new groups but we soon realised that as well as the conversational English classes, there was a need for a regular drop in time for people to meet and share as friends and so we combined the two and started our own ‘It’s Tuesday’ (Conversation Group) sessions which meet throughout the year.
As we continued this work and supported the campaign for Ipswich to become a Town of Sanctuary, I met with other churches and volunteer groups and realised that they, to varying degrees, had open events and groups that Asylum Seekers could attend. The only alteration needed was for a specific invitation to be made so that it was clear that Asylum Seekers were welcome. The need to begin a new venture and look for more volunteers and a time to put the new event into action did not actually need to happen! – What does need to happen though is for those people who run these events to support Ipswich Town of Sanctuary and add their name and event to the growing list of people and places that form a supportive and welcoming body, for then we can move nearer the goal of becoming a full Town of Sanctuary.
Sanctuary is much more than just having somewhere that welcomes people; it is about giving security and freedom from fear so that people can begin to rebuild lives that have been devastated. As someone involved in just a small way I can honestly declare that I have a much richer life than I did through meeting and engaging with my wider world family.
Minister William Glasse Writes:
The St. John’s that I first knew, over 20 years ago was a fellowship that was acutely aware of its social conscience and had a healthy balance between work in the community amongst those in need, and its worshipping life. In time, some of this work was no longer being done. Then the opportunities amongst those needing to learn English gave a new focus for the Church to engage in active and practical work amongst people in a way that a genuine need could be met by a genuine capability. I saw signs of the old St. John’s again; the church family today has more purpose and direction than was the case a few years ago.