Sanctus St Marks is a support group for refugees and people who are seeking asylum in the UK. Team Vicar, Sally Smith tells how it has now developed into a fully-fledged fresh expression of church.
Since our launch in June 2014, Sanctus – a support group for refugees and asylum seekers – has provided hundreds of people with a listening ear, help with bureaucracy, a friendly face, emergency accommodation and assistance with food, clothing, translation services – and spiritual care.
There is a heavy demand for our services as Stoke-on-Trent is one of the government’s ‘dispersal cities’ for newly arrived refugees. We aim to walk alongside people who find their way to us, from all around the world, in a non-judgemental and safe environment. As a result, the reach of our ministry extends to Europe and beyond, as we connect with like-minded groups around the world.
Sanctus operates drop-in sessions on Monday and Wednesday mornings. Men, women and children are all welcome. We have ‘stay and play’ activities for pre-school children and their parents, staffed by qualified workers. During the school holidays, we have lots of crafty fun where everyone can get involved.
The drop-in sessions are supported by a team of committed volunteers, working in partnership with staff from the local Children’s Centre, Sexual Health Services, Mental Health Asylum Support Team and other voluntary organisations.
2017 UPDATE: In January 2016, we started Sanctus on Saturday – a time of cross-cultural worship for people of all faiths and none. We meet together with singing, prayer and reflection on a passage from the Bible. We then share a meal together cooked by our members from around the world.
Along with opportunities for worship and prayer, Sanctus has also enabled a number of new initiatives including English language and literacy skills, befriending and emotional support. We’re also able to provide opportunities for local people to get involved through donations of toiletries and themed cultural events supported by community art groups.
In addition, people do come to us who have no recourse to public funds and no safe place to sleep. We try to ensure everyone who asks for help is helped, that the vulnerable are protected and are out of harms’ way through our hosting scheme and destitution support ‘guest houses’.
Looking back on the journey Sanctus has been on, Managing Director, Rev Sally Smith reflects… “I consider myself to be the most privileged person in the world to have been called to lead this vibrant, diverse and rich Sanctus family. As we come together in all of our messiness and our need, Jesus is present to us in a most profound way. As we laugh together and cry together, which we do often, we know him to be sharing in our joy and in our tears. Our Tuesday Bible studies give us the opportunity to grapple with issues of faith and justice and what that might mean for us as we seek to be followers in the way of Jesus.”
To hear more about Sanctus you can listen here: