St John’s Church and the community of Farsley have opened their doors to seven vulnerable asylum seekers, writes Jacob Parry.
West Yorkshire Destitute Asylum Network (WYDAN), which works with places of worship to house vulnerable asylum seekers, found an ally in Reverend Paul Tudge and his spouse, Rosie, who opted into welcoming their new ‘guests’ to St John’s and Farsley.
St John’s assistant curate Hannah Lievesley, 46, who is one of the driving forces behind organising the church’s transformation into a sanctuary, said:
“Everything went well, everyone appears as comfortable as possible, which is great because we’re really trying to create an atmosphere of homeliness here.
“We call our recent arrivals our ‘guests’ because that is exactly how we treat them. We dine together, we try to develop connections built on trust and friendship. In general, we are trying to break down fear surrounding asylum seekers in order to build bridges of cohesion and trust in the community.”
Ms Lievesley praised the local community of Farsley for their welcoming nature. She said:
“Currently we have 70 volunteers from the local community and have had all sorts of donations ranging from financial aid to toiletries to home-made cakes. It’s a lot of work and requires a lot of people-power but fortunately, lots of people wanted to get involved.”
The church has been modified to accommodate the group of “guests” over the next two weeks utilising the recently renovated “changing room toilets” into a wash-room. St John’s have also managed to modify the chapel into a “chill-out area” with WIFI access and have established sleeping quarters with a modesty curtain to provide much needed private space.
A JustGiving page has been set up to provide further assistance to St John’s and they have already £1,325, reinforcing the community’s commitment to helping the vulnerable in their time of need.
Ms Lievesley added:
“The main benefit of doing something like this is answering a need that is a universal necessity in the modern world. A place to feel safe.”