March 2018

Dear Friends,

St Andrew’s has recently been used as a meeting place by Worcestershire Welcomes Refugees. Several meetings have taken place and reps of the various local support groups have been appreciative of Welcome Wednesday refreshments.

Following Chris and Anne Russell’s visit to us on Advent Sunday, several people have volunteered to take on a more direct role in supporting locally resident families.

We stepped up a gear on Saturday 17th February when we hosted a party for more than 80 people, Syrian refugees now living all over the county and members of their support groups. The Hall was filled with chatter in several languages and people seemed to make themselves at home. There were games for children, a few of whom were so young they must have been born since their parents fled from Syria.

While St Andrew’s and local people served hot and cold drinks, the refugees brought most of the food, in generous quantities. Thank you to those who responded to Pauline Thorpe’s request for cakes – again people were very generous.

After an outing, to the Cathedral or Primark, or to a local Arabic store, everyone shared food.   Then there was music and dancing, laughter and toddlers running around. Arriving at about 1.30pm, everyone had left by 7.00pm. I think it is fair to say all our helpers were exhausted, but we felt privileged to be involved in such an event. If there is a “next time”, and there may be, we shall need some more help in the kitchen! One of the young women refugees made a point of thanking us, “Because you are all very tired”!

It was a great joy to me to see the Hall filled – as I have never seen it before – with people of all ages, in such numbers, for so long. It was also interesting to meet other like-minded Worcestershire people, some of whom identified themselves as churchgoers.

It was also a great sadness that 2 different people made the comment that this is “like heaven”, and then felt the need to apologise to me. We have a great gulf to cross if such good people think that it is somehow blasphemous to speak in this way.

“Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds but when it is grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”” Matthew 13: 31 – 32)

A word picture (as always with Jesus) of life and growth and potential, of gift and surprise. Why should not a party of strangers and friends, in Worcester, be a sign of God’s grace and goodness, of God’s lasting purposes?                                           HELEN CAINE