How UK churches can connect with our new neighbours

Jesus was once asked, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ His answer reminds us that we are called to look beyond appearances and circumstances and cast aside prejudices and stereotypes. We are to welcome the stranger with generosity, care and compassion.

Over the past 18 months, Welcome Churches have developed emergency response programmes to welcome people from Hong Kong, Afghanistan and Ukraine. Just as each scenario is unique, the people impacted are unique too. Many have experienced severe trauma, loss and distress before reaching the UK. It is vital that when they arrive at their new safe home, they are welcomed with love and care. Our response
each time must adapt to provide the best support, love and care that we can. We aim to see refugees thriving in the UK, following Jesus and fully involved in UK churches. We want to offer the best possible welcome to all who need it. A welcome is not just a one-off act of greeting. It is bringing someone into your life, your community, and your church to offer care, hospitality and love. It tells someone, you belong here, you’re safe here. In every town and city, the church has buildings, activities, services and volunteers that can help new arrivals build lives in a new community.


A practical response

It’s been amazing to see hundreds of churches sign up to be ‘Hong Kong Ready’, prepared and trained to provide a warm welcome. We’ve seen churches join together in prayer, receive cultural training and open their hearts, and doors, to the people of Hong Kong. It has also been a huge privilege to work in partnership with OMF and the Chinese Overseas Christian Mission (COCM) to serve the UK Church. We have found both OMF and COCM to be incredibly generous, open-handed organisations who are doing a fantastic job of serving East Asian peoples in the UK.

The past few months have seen our events and activities taking place across the country to offer welcome and practical support to new neighbours from Hong Kong. Vibrant friendship festivals have taken place in cities and towns, including Edinburgh, Manchester, Bristol and London, connecting Hong Kongers with churches and communities to share culture and celebrate life together. These multicultural events, sharing fun, food and games have created lasting memories and helped break down cultural barriers.

Churches across the country have also started running our Welcome Course, a six-part course that introduces aspects of British life and culture to people new to the UK and to encourage discussions and friendship.
The course has created a fantastic opportunity to make and strengthen friendships, share cultures and learn how to best help one-another offer the best possible welcome. We firmly believe that integration needs to be a two-way process; with the host community proactively and intentionally welcoming newcomers and assisting them to become involved in local community life. The Welcome Course provides a great way for Hong Kongers to utilise and share their own knowledge, talents and abilities to take part in, and contribute to, society.


Friendship first

Churches often ask how they can help welcome those who have arrived on their doorstep, from overseas, often at very short notice. Many new arrivals have said their greatest need, however, is for friendship with British people. Loss of community and social networks leaves them isolated, struggling to improve their language and access services, training and employment. Churches are often at the heart of local communities; they can introduce new neighbours to local people, help them to learn English and to develop their skills. Churches can enable people arriving from Hong Kong to contribute to the local community and integrate more effectively.
Through this practical outpouring of support we see trust built and meaningful, fruitful and thriving friendships growing. As one church leader welcoming Hong Kongers shared, ‘We offered time and the opportunity for them to meet new people. There were lots of questions and we were privileged to help the family start settling… We introduced a friend who was a great cook, loved [East Asian] food and he took them to a specialist supermarket for a unique shopping trip. The family’s UK experience soon became a great gift to share. They have now befriended other people who have more recently moved from Hong Kong. They have been able to answer questions, give local area tours, and recommend the best places to source familiar food.’

By joining the Welcome Network of over 1000 churches across the country, your church can be a part of this mission on your doorstep, offering a welcome to the stranger and a community to your new neighbour.

Head of Communications for Welcome Churches

Join the Welcome Network by visiting their website.