In February, Bishop Nicholas Hudson visited the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Day Centre, in Wapping. His pastoral visit was an opportunity for him to meet refugees, volunteers and staff and gain a greater understanding of the work of JRS UK.
After speaking with Sarah Teather, Director of JRS UK, Bishop Nicholas was given a tour of the building and introduced to the people who make up the JRS community. He witnessed the work that goes on to provide the services JRS UK offer, from the day centre and detention support, to its legal project and ‘At Home’ hosting scheme.
In a meeting with volunteers, Bishop Nicholas heard from several people about the various roles they take on at JRS and what they enjoy most about giving their time to accompany and serve their refugee friends. One volunteer recounted how she found great joy in catching up with those she had hosted in the past, while handing out travel grants at the day centre. In the busy kitchen, Bishop Nicholas met with volunteer chefs and some of the religious who were serving the food.
Bishop Nicholas joined the JRS UK team for its daily communal lunch and listened to the organisation’s refugee friends share their experiences of seeking sanctuary in the UK and taking part in the life of JRS. He spoke with some of those who have been coming to JRS for many years, as they described the long periods of waiting that they experience while negotiating the asylum system. He chatted to some of the refugee friends about football; after revealing his support for Chelsea he was swiftly reminded of their defeat earlier in the week. He also met the youngest members of the JRS family who were sitting on their mothers’ knees. The friends were eager to pose for photographs with the Bishop and there were plenty of smiles around the building.
Before leaving Bishop Nicholas said, ‘From the moment I arrived and met with Sarah this morning, I was struck by the sense of accompaniment present at JRS UK. The health of this organisation can be measured by the sheer quality of welcome which I, and many others who attended the Day Centre, have received today.’