First Baptist church awarded Church of Sanctuary status
Six Ways Baptist Church in Erdington, Birmingham has become the first Baptist church to be awarded Church of Sanctuary status
The accreditation recognises the church’s commitment to being a safe and welcoming place for all, especially those seeking sanctuary. This includes people who have had to flee their homeland in fear of their lives.
The idea of a Church of Sanctuary has evolved from the City of Sanctuary movement, which aims to build cultures of welcome, hospitality and safety. Sanctuary awards recognise and celebrate mainstream organisations’ commitment to City of Sanctuary values and vision of welcome and inclusivity. Six Ways is the second church to receive the Church of Sanctuary award.
The award was presented to Solani Muleya, one of the church's “Sanctuary Advocates", herself a refugee from Zimbabwe, by Barbara Forbes from the City of Sanctuary Network.
Barbara said, ‘The Birmingham City of Sanctuary committee was impressed by the support already given by the church to asylum-seekers and refugees, and their commitment to extend and continue this work.
‘It was also important for us that the decision to become a recognised "Church of Sanctuary" was taken by the whole congregation, thus confirming that this is firmly embedded in the life of the church.’
Over the past decade the church has sought to welcome and include sanctuary seekers and refugees in its activities.
Many members of its worshipping community are refugees or asylum seekers. It offers various social clubs and activities to those who have sought safety from other countries in Erdington and the surrounding areas. This includes classes to help people learn and improve their English, supporting charity Restore – which offers a befriending service to refugees – and study and play groups which welcome young people and children from asylum seeker and refugee backgrounds.
At a meeting in March its church members committed to being a Church of Sanctuary and affirming the value of each individual human being as made in the image of God.
Minister the Revd Gerard Goshawk (pictured, right) said, 'It’s great to see the brilliant work by our congregation towards welcoming and supporting those seeking sanctuary recognised.
‘The award also presents a renewal of our commitment to continue and extend this welcome and we are all excited for the future. Already we are working closely with the fantastic School of Sanctuary network in Birmingham and working out how we can increase our support to this.’
Beaunia Mangena is a member of the church and a refugee from Zimbabwe. She said, ‘I am so pleased and proud that we are a Church of Sanctuary. Because of what I have been through and knowing what others have to go through I feel it is so important for us to show we take supporting asylum seekers and refugees very seriously.’
City of Sanctuary is a charity supporting a network of groups across the UK and Ireland who are part of a movement to build a culture of welcome and hospitality within their communities. More than 100 cities and towns have City of Sanctuary groups.
Any church which contributes towards its vision of welcome can apply for the Sanctuary Award by signing up to its charter values and principles. They need to demonstrate their commitment using the following process:
Learn: find out what it means to be seeking sanctuary; and be actively involved in awareness raising.
Embed: take positive action to make welcome and inclusion part of the values of your organisation or community, to support sanctuary seekers and refugees, and to include them in your activities.
Share your vision and achievements: let others know about the positive contribution refugees make to our society and the benefits of a welcoming culture to everyone.
For more on becoming a Church of Sanctuary visit churchofsanctuary.org
Download the Hospitality and Sanctuary for All document. Appendix 3 has more information on how to become a Church of Sanctuary