Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sanctuary Sunday - Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees

Welcome and Call to Worship

The churches of Cheltenham have been invited to mark today as Sanctuary Sunday as we join with others to say, Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees.

As Jesus came to the end of telling the story of the Good Samaritan he had a question to ask. It’s a question he asks of us today.

Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’

Let us pray …

Storytelling Lord, give us ears to hear,
and to not only be hearers but also doers of the word,

to not only ask who our neighbour is
but also ask how we might be a neighbour.

May we never ever pass by on the other side,
no matter what it costs us.

May we only ever be the one who shows mercy
to those robbed of all life held dear.

May we always go and do likewise.

So help us, God.

Let’s join in singing the first of our hymns …

MTS 10 I the Lord of sea and sky

Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer

Little things make a big difference

Talk about the little things we can do to help other people – and then show video clip

Reading: Matthew 25:31-40

We are a community of faith that has been created by the love of God.

We are the people who have been set free by the world of forgiveness in Jesus Christ, and are therefore a people called to reach out to those who have travelled across the world fleeing war and persecution and are now in our midst and far from home, people whose lives cry out for the warm embrace of fellowship and friendship.

We have come not to exalt our own goodness, but to praise the holiness of God

We have come not to boast of what we have done, but to proclaim the redeeming work of Jesus Christ by extending the hand of community to refugees, displaced persons and asylum seekers.

With all our being, we will praise God and tell of God's goodness in our acts of kindness and love toward the "least" among us in our times.

A Hy-Spirit Song

Activities for all over 3

At the heart of the Bible

It’s there in the story of the People of Israel at the heart of the Bible.

Abraham and Sarah
Isaac and Rebekah
Jacob and Rachel

All travelled far from their home and found a home far away and became a people, the people of Israel.

For a while they settled but famine forced them to flee from their homes, they found refuge in Egypt. But as the generations passed the people of Israel were treated harshly, oppressed and turned into slaves.

And so it was that Moses led them out of bondage in Egypt towards a land of promise … and each year at Passover the people remember that once they were enslaved, that once they fled their homes … and at every turn they made a commitment – never to forget that once they had been foreigners in an alien land – always to care for the foreigner in their midst.

It’s there in the story of the People of Israel at the heart of the Bible.

It is there in the Covenant Code.
"Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner; remember that you were foreigners in Egypt.” Exodus 22:21

It is there in the Holiness Code

Do not mistreat foreigners who are living in your land.
Treat them as you would an Israelite,
and love them as you love yourselves.
Remember that you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.
I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:33-34

It is there in the Justice Code

"Do not deprive foreigners and orphans of their rights;
and do not take a widow's garment as security for a loan.
Remember that you were slaves in Egypt
and that the Lord your God set you free;
that is why I have given you this command.

"When you gather your crops
and fail to bring in some of the grain that you have cut,
do not go back for it;
it is to be left for the foreigners, orphans, and widows,
so that the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do.

When you have picked your olives once,
do not go back and get those that are left;
they are for the foreigners, orphans, and widows.

When you have gathered your grapes once,
do not go back over the vines a second time;
the grapes that are left are for the foreigners, orphans, and widows.

Never forget that you were slaves in Egypt;
that is why I have given you this command.   Deuteronomy 24:17-22

This is the Law of the Lord
‘For the Lord your God…
executes justice for the orphan and the widow,
and who loves the strangers, the foreigners
providing them with food and clothing.
You shall also love the stranger, the foreigner,
for you were strangers, you were foreigners, in the land of Egypt.’

Deuteronomy 10:18-19

And in the promised land they built a great kingdom only to have it split in two.

First the northern kingdom and then the southern kingdom too fell to the Assyrians and then to the Babylonians and the people found themselves in a strange and foreign land.

By the rivers of Babylon—
   there we sat down and there we wept
   when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
   we hung up our harps.
For there our captors
   asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
   ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’

How could we sing the Lord’s song
   in a foreign land?

They returned and didn’t forget that once they had been strangers in a foreign land, seeking refuge far away.

It’s there in the story of the People of Israel at the heart of the Bible.

It is there in the story of Jesus, at the heart of the Bible.

And in the fullness of time one was born in a manger for there was no room for them in the inn.

And wise men from the East came
and saw the child with Mary his mother;
and they knelt down and paid him homage.

Then, opening their treasure-chests,
they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they left for their own country by another road.

Now after they had left,
an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,

‘Get up, take the child and his mother,
 and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you;
for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’

Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night,
and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod.

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men,
he was infuriated,
and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem
who were two years old or under,
according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.

Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
   wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
   she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’  Matthew 2

It is there in the story of Jesus, at the heart of the Bible.

Jesus knew what it was to be far from home.

Jesus knew what it was to receive help from the foreigner.

When did we see you a stranger and welcome you?
Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these
who are members of my family, you did it to me.

Which of these three, do you think,
was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?

He said,

‘The one who showed him mercy.’

Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’ Luke 10:36

And if it is there in the story of the People of Israel
If it is there in the story of Jesus
If it is there at the heart of the Bible

That means we have to do something about it.

Let mutual love continue.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,
for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.

Remember those who are in prison,
as though you were in prison with them;
those who are being tortured,
as though you yourselves were being tortured.

So we can say with confidence,
‘The Lord is my helper;
   I will not be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?’

Prayer with a Response

God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
provide for all seeking refuge from famine.

God of Hagar, Joseph and Moses,
liberate all seeking refuge from slavery.

God of Esther, Naomi and Ruth,
strengthen all seeking refuge as families.

God of David, Elijah, and Jeremiah,
protect all seeking refuge from conflict.

God of Ezekiel, Ezra and Nehemiah,
comfort all who are longing for home.

God of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
journey with all seeking refuge today.
In the name of the One who was
both refuge and refugee.

Christian Aid’s Video with Susan Durber Love the Stranger

MTS 3 Brother, sister

That’s why we have joined with churches, with people of other faith communities and with people of no faith here in Cheltenham to offer a welcome to refugees in our town. We have supported Gloucestershire Action for Asylum Seekers And Refugees, GARAS. And we have been involved in setting up Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees.

We need to understand who refugees and asylum seekers are. The following is drawn from Churches Together in Merseyside Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Migrants – a Guide – Welcoming the Stranger

What is Asylum?

Asylum is the protection granted by a country to someone who has left their own country to find safety. If a country gives such protection that person becomes a refugee.

What is an Asylum Seeker

An asylum seeker is someone who has made application for protection in line with the UN 1951 Refugee Convention, and the 1967 European Convention on Human Rights. A person applies for asylum on the grounds of having a well-founded fear of persecution because of race, religion, nationality, political belief or membership of a particular social group.

Once they have officially applied for asylum, the asylum seeker can claim support, until their application is dealt with, and their request is
agreed or refused.

They have to live in designated accommodation provided by G4S, SERCO or Clearel, they have £5-00 a day and they are not allowed to work, to train, to have education, to drive, or to have council housing. The accommodation allocated to asylum seekers is not paid for by the local council. It is nearly always ‘hard to let’ properties, where other
people do not want to live.

If their application for asylum is agreed they have refugee status, their support from the home office ends, they have to vacate their accommodation, and have 28 days to access benefits and find accommodation. They are now permitted to live and work as they are able.

What is a refugee?

A person given refugee status is normally granted leave to remain in the UK for 5 years. At the end of that period they can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).

If the request for asylum is denied they become a ‘refused asylum seeker’. They are returned to their home country. However some refused asylum seekers cannot be returned to their country of origin if that country is subject to a level 2 or 3 humanitarian crisis as defined by
UNCHR e.g. Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Eritrea. Some countries refuse to accept returning asylum claimants e.g. Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

What can refused asylum seekers do?

All are given the right to appeal. Each has to travel at their own expense to Liverpool where they make their appeal in person. During this appeal process Asylum seekers whose applications havebeen refused are able to apply for, but may not receive, a basic support package known as “hard case” or “Section 4” support. There is no cash support. The
support consists of accommodation, on a no choice basis, and board in the form of an ‘Azure card’, pre-loaded with £35.39 a week for a single asylum seeker. It can only be used in specific supermarkets and shops. The Azure card does not cover any travel costs, so no financial support is provided for even local travel costs. In order to receive this support the applicant must agree to return to their country of origin. If they cannot destitution follows.

30% of appeals are granted.

The Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees group continues to grow and be active not only supporting the Syrian refugee families in Cheltenham but also raising awareness about the plight of those refugees that come to Great Britain from Syria and elsewhere and specifically towards those that come to the Cheltenham area.

At the moment the focus of the CWR group is around


English lessons:

The Community Cafe that is led by C3 Church is ongoing; the third café has just happened; by all accounts was really good last month, the Syrians apparently had asked to use the time for some more English conversation with volunteers (rather than just a chance to get together and socialise with each other), so there might be some activities to give English practice this time too. This is a closed event and a chance for families to get together and also for members of the welcome group to come and everyone to meet each other.

What is needed more than anything else is a heart of welcome.

Almighty and merciful God,
whose son became a refugee
and had no place to call his own.
Look with mercy on those who today
are fleeing from danger,
homeless and hungry.
Bless those who work to bring them relief;
inspire generosity and compassion in all our hearts,
and guide the nations of the world towards that day
when all will rejoice in your Kingdom of justice and of peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Hymn: Longing for light

Prayers of Concern
led by Neil

Quiet time by Susan Lenzkes
There is a place 
Where human strength can 
rest beside still water ;
A wondrous place 
Where searching ends and 
Souls can cease to hunger ;
A tranquil place 
Of sweet release where 
Sorrow finds surrender ;
For Christ our Shepherd 
Tends us there and 
Holds us close forever

Let us pray ,  for the starving millions in Yemen and East Africa 

Let us pray ,that the port blockades are lifted to allow the ships to deliver the cranes to lift the sacks of grain to feed the starving millions 

We pray for the parents that have lost and will lose children and children who will lose parents ,lord give them the strength to find their peace and sanctuary 

We pray for all those who have been uprooted from their homes and families because of conflict within their countries and that they find their peace and sanctuary . 

We pray that in America the President stops his anti immigration quest and realises the damaging implications and knock on affect of his actions and decisions and instead utilises his  power to help ,share ,include , welcome and not reject .

We pray that they open their borders their doors their minds and their hearts to all immigrants .

We pray for our prime minister to give her the strength when challenged and under pressure and that she finds her quiet time to be able to do what's best for the country and all who find refuge here 

As Spring approaches we pray for those less fortunate than ourselves who are homeless and have been living on the streets for them Spring and Summer just means warmer nights but they are still sleeping on cold hard stone . We pray for shelter food and friendship 

We pray for all the care workers and Social services who are providing continuous support whilst battling against financial constraints 

WE pray for the emergency services who are also under pressure daily without the funds and resources to support 

We remember families under pressure for all sorts of reasons, that tensions and conflicts be resolved peacefully and bring healing to hurting people, for those suffering in the workplace with unfair loads .

 We pray for our own church family 


A Hy-Spirit Song

The Lord’s Supper

Communion Offering & Dedication

MTS 24 Will you come and follow me

Words of Blessing

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