This week I attended the ceremony where the City of Newcastle was formally awarded ‘City of Sanctuary’ status. MCC Newcastle pledged its support for the application and our joint project with MESMAC, Rainbow Home, was listed on the display as one of the agencies contributing to providing sanctuary in the city, as we work with LGBT people seeking asylum in the UK. The idea of City of Sanctuary was started in Sheffield by a man called Inderjit Bhogal. He could see different organisations all working with refugees and wanted to link them together, so that Sheffield could truly say it was a City of Sanctuary. This idea caught on and there are now 30 towns and cities across the UK and beyond who pledge to actively welcome and support those seeking sanctuary. All of this because one man turned his compassion into action.
To feel safe, to feel welcome, to have someone to talk to, to have people around who want to help you and not judge you – these are really basic human needs. Many of us will have felt unsafe, or not welcome or lonely or judged at some points in our lives. Alison and Inderjit both just wanted to make a difference. At the time, neither of them was thinking about developing a whole organisation or a network of cities. They just wanted bring hope and light into the lives of the people whose stories they heard. Throughout our history as MCC Newcastle, we have done the same. We have responded to the stories that we have heard, both within and beyond our congregation. We have offered a safe, warm, welcoming home and a place to just be. This weekend we are re-naming our church. As Northern Lights MCC, we are just proclaiming in our name what we do in reality – we offer hope and light to those who need it. Our new name signifies a public commitment to do this and to continue to turn our compassion into action.