Last Friday 6 December, the JRS UK Advent Service was held at Farm Street Church and was led by Bishop Paul McAleenan, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster and lead Bishop for migrants and refugees. The annual JRS Advent Service is a special occasion for staff, volunteers and our refugee friends to come together in a spirit of joy and anticipation, celebrating the beginning of the Advent season.
The service of carols and readings included a powerful drama piece by refugees about the trials of waiting, scripture readings and poetry read by refugees in English, French and Cantonese. An exhibition of art by refugees taking part in JRS UK’s creative arts group covered the walls of London Jesuit Centre for guests to view afterwards. Both the service and reception that followed, were rooted in JRS’ mission of accompaniment and closeness to the marginalised and neglected whom we serve.
The highlight of the event was the moving, powerful drama put on by refugees during the service in collaboration with Rise Theatre about the never-ending journeys of those seeking asylum in this country, with an Advent theme of waiting in hope. A colourful exhibition of art by refugees was displayed in the London Jesuit Centre following the service, making it a particularly special evening for guests and supporters. On display were abstract self-portrait pieces created by the JRS UK Creative Arts Space. The Creative Arts Space is one of JRS’s refugee-led activities which complements the Day Centre, helping support our refugee friends to build community and express themselves.
The Advent service, drinks reception and exhibition were the result of many weeks of preparation and hard work by members of JRS staff, volunteers, our refugee friends and the Jesuit community.
Commenting on the evening, Sarah Teather, Director of JRS UK said: “We were thrilled to have a full Church, including many refugees, who led much of the service as readers and performers and exhibited their artwork at the reception afterwards. Christmas can be a lonely time for anyone who is separated from family. It is also a gruelling period for those who face hunger and street homelessness. In the weeks before Christmas we try to create space for community, joy and friendship alongside delicious festive meals and gifts of warm clothes. We rely on the help of volunteers and donors to make it possible to support refugee friends in this way.”
Alongside the Advent Service, collections were held for the JRS UK Advent appeal, launched to raise funds to support destitute asylum seekers, including for a Christmas lunch and hardship grants for 250 destitute asylum seekers the week before Christmas. If you would like to donate to the appeal you can do so here.