Please be assured of my best wishes and prayers for you all.
Thank you so much for your generous responses to our refugee crisis appeal. To date we have raised around £7,000 and money is still coming in. This is being transferred to Open Doors to support their work with refugees. Your generosity will make a difference in the lives of others.
The European refugee crisis is not a short-term issue and we must therefore seek to engage with it strategically, prayerfully and intentionally. There is an excellent article from Steve Clifford, the General Director of the Evangelical Alliance here which might help you as you think about the crisis. As an eldership we have been thinking this all through and prayerfully working out what to do. I shared our plans with the wider church council and staff team on the 12th September and I’d like to share our thoughts, plans and priorities with you.
In terms of what we are doing, we are committed to five core principles as a local church as we respond to the crisis.
1. We want to proclaim the truth into it.
2. We want to be the presence of Jesus to those in need.
3. We want to engage prophetically with the issue.
4. We want to mobilise the church in prayer.
5. We want to work in partnership with others.
Proclaiming the truth.
We are speaking into the issue on the 27th September in our Church’s Global day. I will also circulate a written paper to the church family as well as preaching into the issue on that day. We also hope to provide you with Life Group notes to help you think through the issues around refugees.
Alongside that, the next Community Church Network day conference (7th October from 9:30am – 4:30pm) will be speaking into the subject. The title of the day is Welcoming Others: Christian Responses to the European Refugee Crisis. We will have contributions from Open Doors, Home for Good, aid agencies, former or current refugees and church leaders as well as a theological reflection on the issue. There will also be opportunity to pray into the situation and to network with others.
On the evening of the 7th October, we are seeking to facilitate a wider community engagement on the issue where we are seeking to engage people from South Bucks and various stakeholders in a discussion about what we can do together the South Bucks community to address the issue. We are also seeking to inform our people well by circulating articles, resources and ideas for them to engage with. Lastly, we are hoping to put some podcasts onto our online platform addressing the issue.
Of course, you are all welcome at all of the events on the 7th October. More details are available from the church office or on the website. It would be great to see as many of you as possible, including your Life Groups, engaging with these issues on the 7th October.
In seeking to meet the immediate needs that present themselves to us, we have already received financial and practical gifts. We have sent around £7000 to Open Doors to support Syrian refugees, supplied a small amount of aid to Kos and are working with local collection points in High Wycombe etc for requests aid. In addition, a number of people have volunteered to help with hosting / welcoming and fostering (we are a Home for Good church and are linked into that campaign). We are also working to support the efforts of the local statutory bodies to try and encourage a coordinated and thought through response to the issue.
We would like to put together some information on various practical ways in which people can help, so if you are involved in doing so or would like us to be aware of an initiative that we can let the wider church family know about then please get in touch with us.
As mentioned above, we are seeking to speak ‘into’ the issue for both Christians and for the wider community. We want to encourage our church family to engage positively with refugees, to be able to answer some of the common fears and questions that folk have about the issue and to be a positive voice for change.
1. We want to encourage you to get behind the call for a National Refugee Welcome and Resettlement Board (you can find more information about that here) and to engage with politicians around addressing the levels of refugees we are willing to receive.
2. We would also encourage you to get behind the Citizens UK campaign to find potential homes for Syrian refugees and you can find more information about that here.
3. We want to ask you to prayerfully consider how you could help the Home for Good campaign to identify potential foster parents for unaccompanied minors and you can find out more about that here.
In addition, we are seeking to address the fears and anxieties of our wider community (and indeed some in the church family) around this issue and help them see it from a biblical perspective. There are a great many questions about what is the right thing to do in this situation. Some people are anxious at the prospect of more refugees. Some are concerned that Islamic fundamentalists may be using this crisis as a way of flooding Europe with jihadists. The issue is far from straightforward and we want to do all we can to help you think through the issues and work out what God is saying to you and to his church.
At a national and international level, I am involved in seeking to mobilise the UK church and politicians to find ways of working together on this issue more effectively. I have some important discussions with members of the government, the Lords and the newly formed Labour task force in the next few weeks for which I would value your prayers.
We are aiming to have a prayer vigil on Tuesday 6th October as part of our partnership with St James on a two week 24/7 plan and we are pointing our folk to good prayer resources so that they can be praying intelligently into the issues. We are also providing prayer resources for our folk to use in Life Groups, in their own devotions etc. You can also link to prayer resources around this issue through the Open Doors website here and through the excellent work of the Boas Trust here.
We are really seeking to work with others in all of this – internationally, nationally, regionally and locally. To that end, I am hoping to meet with other local church leaders on Thursday 24th September from 2pm – 3:30pm to discuss how we can work together on all of this.
Things to consider
I would really value your support at the following:
- The Global Sunday on the 27th September
- The Prayer Gathering on the 6th October
- The Community Church Network day conference on the 7th October (you can book via the church office)
- The South Bucks community evening addressing this issue on the evening of the 7th October.
All of this presents an overall picture of how we, as a church family, are seeking to respond to the issues we face as we see hundreds of thousands of people exiting their homelands and arriving in Europe. The issues are complex, the challenges are great and there are many different responses to the refugee crisis. We will, of course, keep you informed of resources, articles, blogs and other materials that might help you as we become aware of them.
Our prayer is that all that we are doing in response would look, feel and sound like the Lord Jesus.
Grace and Peace,
On behalf of the Leadership Team of Gold Hill
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