Dublin Central Mission—Abbey St Methodist (DCM) received recognition as a Church of Sanctuary as part of a Sanctuary in Faith event which took place on Thursday, 14 October. The presentation was made virtually, via Zoom, by Andy Pollak, acting chair of Places of Sanctuary Ireland, who congratulated DCM for their well-established ministry of welcome and hospitality.
The Rev Dr Laurence Graham, Superintendent Minister of DCM, received the award and gave a brief introduction to the history of the church’s ‘Welcome the Stranger’ initiative, the genesis of which goes back as far as 1998, as the church considered the changing demographics and needs of Dublin’s city centre. Over a period of years, the initiative grew and developed ensuring not only that newcomers were warmly welcomed into the worshipping community, but also that advice and practical support around financial concerns, work permit issues, and migrant rights issues was available. Gently used clothing and household items were collected and made available for those with immediate practical needs. Home hospitality, an international bring-and-share supper and entertainment evening, as well as an annual Christmas party and summer bus outing became a regular part of the church’s life. The church has become a truly international expression, with people from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds involved in aspects of ministry and leadership at all levels within the church. Zukie Gantana, originally from South Africa and a member of DCM, also shared her own experiences first as a person being welcomed into the church and now as one who is part of the ministry of welcome. Zukie shared movingly about what it meant to her to find a place of acceptance and encouragement at that time in her life when she faced the challenges of being newly-arrived in Ireland.
Following the input by DCM, two representatives from Waterford spoke: Dorothy Maduewesi, from the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church, and Obianuju Ekedozie, from St. Paul’s Church, Lisduggan. Dorothy shared about the spiritual encouragement she has experienced within her church family, and also about the types of practical assistance that can be of help for migrants, especially for those dealing with direct provision. This included help in filling out forms, providing reference letters, and support for new mothers. Obianuju spoke of the welcome that she experienced in St Paul’s and of the parish’s commitment to offer practical help to those both within the church community, and in the wider community, including re-settled Syrians.
The online networking event included representatives of just over 30 churches from across the island from Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Dublin, Wicklow, Monaghan, and Belfast. The Revd Abigail Sines, who chaired the event, closed with a brief presentation about the ‘Learn-Embed-Share’ process which is the hallmark of the Sanctuary movement, and pointed participants to resources on the Places of Sanctuary Ireland website which can be of help to places of worship as they consider making the commitment to become a Place of Sanctuary. Those churches that have adopted the Statement of Commitment and begun their Sanctuary journey were also acknowledged. These include: Carrigaline Union of Parishes (Co. Cork); Carrickmacross, Magheracloone and Ardragh Group of Parishes (Co. Monaghan); Christ Church Limerick; Cork Methodist; and St Patrick’s Methodist Church Waterford.
The Sanctuary in Faith stream is also open to participation by other faith groups and the committee would welcome opportunities to engage with a variety of places of worship.