Rev Sally Smith is the vicar of St Mark’s Church in Stoke-on-Trent. The post-industrial city is a dispersal centre for the Home Office. Refugees are often placed there while their applications are looked at. Much of the housing used for refugees is within Sally’s parish, one of the most deprived areas of Stoke-on-Trent. Today, the population is mainly Pakistani Muslim, but when Sally arrived four years ago her congregation was a time capsule, harking back to the area’s historic population. On a Sunday morning, 18 people rattled around in a large building. Many of this loyal, predominantly white British congregation no longer lived near the church but continued attending because they used to live in the area.
Sally is a warm and welcoming character. When refugees began coming to the church, she responded by starting a social enterprise called Sanctus. The project partners with local services to offer practical support and Sally is clear it is not an evangelistic tool. Nevertheless, because Sanctus takes place inside the church building, refugees have started to attend Sunday services. She describes Sanctus as a bridge between those seeking asylum and the church community. Sally has baptised over 75 people, the majority of whom were previously Muslims.
Many of these new converts claim to have had supernatural visions with several apparently seeing Jesus in their dreams. Are these new converts genuine believers? “There are mixed motives by most of us in all sorts of areas of our lives, aren’t there?” Sally replies. “I’d say that the majority are genuine,” she adds. Sally observes the sower (Matthew 13) only achieved a 25 per cent “success rate” with his harvest. “What I mean by ‘success’ is that those people we baptise and nurture go on to become mature witnessing Christians. We can’t expect to do better than what Jesus promised us we would do!” “We have a responsibility to welcome people in the name of Jesus, to show them
love and kindness and hospitality.”
Source: Katie Stock – Premier Christianity
Bible Study: Matthew 2:13-15
JULY PRAY WIDER for Christians seeking to meet both the material and spiritual needs of refugees and for many more churches willing to do the same. Give thanks for Sally and her encouragement to the church to reach out to refugees and the wider community.