Bray church communities unite to welcome Ukrainian families
St James’s Church, Crinken, was a hive of activity as Ukrainian families gathered for a Family Fun Week recently. The summer camp was coordinated by volunteers from Crinken, Liberty Church and Cornerstone Church (both located in Bray).
About 80 Ukrainians availed of the camp on one day or another and a team of 75 volunteers helped bring the plan to fruition and came to welcome those from Ukraine.
The week was the first time many of the Ukrainians had been able to meet and spend time with each other outside the walls of the hotel in which they are staying. The organisers aimed to provide a space to be able to forget about the troubles and hardships at home in Ukraine for a while and be able to relax, have fun and to eat and cook their own Ukrainian food.
“As a team it was a joy to see the Ukrainians relax more and more each day, treat our church like a home, and yet with such respect and appreciation,” commented the Revd Trevor Stevenson and Olly Adams, who were part of the organising team. “The Ukrainians’ highlights of the week were seeing their children so happy, eating and cooking Ukrainian food and they felt more bonded with each other, especially the teens. The Irish team’s highlights were to have made such good friends and enjoy their company and friendship going forward.”
Archbishop Michael Jackson visited Crinken to see how the camp was going. He arrived to find children and adults chatting and playing after lunch with many wearing bright yellow t–shirts.
“The very open plan of St James’s Church with foyer, hall and fully equipped kitchen together with multi–purpose worship space was being guided by skilled volunteers from both Ukraine and Ireland to provide a holiday experience for Ukrainian neighbours living in a nearby hotel,” he said.
“The lunch, in which I participated by the generosity of those who had cooked it, was traditional Ukrainian and very delicious. It was cooked on site with local ingredients. The upper and lower floors of the Parish Centre showed the positive signs of art and pottery, creative writing and interactive friendship.”
The outdoor and indoor spaces were utilised with rooms set aside for mothers and babies to rest and the old vestry room was available for someone to sleep. There was plenty of space for people to sit in comfort.
“The Ukrainian people I met were most resilient people who had fled their homeland leaving behind everything and everyone who mattered to them including their pets. There were also people local to Shankill and from elsewhere who were giving these same Ukrainian people scope to express themselves, to enjoy themselves and to share their culture and their personality in a trusting and joyous environment,” the Archbishop remarked.
“My hopes following my visit were that members of the Church of Ireland community in these dioceses might give this sort of happiness a go and meet people who, while they never intended to be in Ireland, felt a strong embrace of human friendship coming to meet them. My personal thanks go to everyone who is making this happen and my encouragement to others is to go and do likewise,” he added.