Nailsea Methodist Church receives Church of Sanctuary Award

17 July 2023

Nailsea Methodist Church has become the first church in North Somerset to achieve the Church of Sanctuary Award.

The award was presented at a special service of celebration on Sunday 2 July attended by representatives of City of Sanctuary UK. It recognises proven commitment to learning about sanctuary issues, embedding practices of hospitality and inclusion, and encouraging others to do the same.

Church members learned to empathise with people seeking sanctuary and offered practical support to refugees and immigrant families in Nailsea. They ran a Hong Kong Welcome Course and joined forces with other local churches to provide a Conversation Café for refugees from Syria and Ukraine.

‘I still remember the first time we came to Nailsea Methodist Church,’ said Rebecca, from Hong Kong. ‘We could really feel the warmth and acceptance from the church. People were so eager to help us settle in this country.  Such authentic help brings much blessing for us.’

Church minister, Revd Deborah Mallett expressed the central importance of welcoming the stranger. ‘The call to love our neighbour, whoever they are and wherever they are from, lies at the heart of Christian faith. We aspire to be a community of welcome and a safe place for all. This award is a happy marker on an on-going journey to express deeper solidarity with those on the margins.’        

In a specially recorded video message the founder of City of Sanctuary, Revd Dr Inderjit Bhogal, addressed the congregation holding a rope recovered from a wrecked refugee boat in the Mediterranean. ‘Some refugees can come here using safe routes without resorting to unseaworthy vessels’, he said. ‘We need the same kind of humanitarian safe routes to be available to all refugees.’

The award was presented to church sanctuary champion Ceri Bowen by Susana Askew from Bristol City of Sanctuary. Guest preacher Forward Maisokwadzo spoke powerfully of his own experiences as a refugee. Forward, who is the National Secretary of the Methodist Church Zimbabwe Fellowship, has played a key role in the growth of the UK sanctuary movement.

The celebration incorporated an extensive exhibition compiled by Ceri which tells the story of the local church’s engagement and presents key facts about the forced displacement of people in today’s world. Ceri, who works at a School of Sanctuary in Easton, Bristol, is a passionate advocate of the benefits of a welcoming culture to everyone. 

City of Sanctuary is a network of ordinary people around the country stepping up to support people seeking sanctuary in our communities. From community groups to schools and universities, local councils to libraries and theatres, City of Sanctuary works with individuals, groups and organisations in every area and sector to encourage inclusivity, solidarity and compassion for people forced to flee their homes. The Sanctuary Awards programme recognises and celebrates organisations which go above and beyond to create welcome, compassion and empowering opportunities for people seeking sanctuary.