Almost all the ministries and charisms of our patron saint are being served by St Nicks 650 years after his death. We have long given food to the poor and homeless (now mainly but not exclusively through working in partnership with the Wild Goose Café), and now increasingly provide food and sustenance for those so-called ‘failed asylum seekers’ whom government policy makes homeless and destitute. Especially during the winter months we are often approached by those who have little food for themselves or their families and no money for heating and light in their flats etc. We help them by giving non-perishable food from our own ‘food bank’ (donated by parishioners) and by putting money on their ‘energy keys’. We support addiction self-help groups (AA, Over-eaters Anonymous) by providing low-cost venue for their meetings. We have parishioners involved with One25 (a Christian organisation caring for street sex workers), and with One25 and Alabaré CCC established some years ago the then only hostel in the country for women seeking to leave the sex industry (the Well). Many of those we support are also ex-prisoners (Fr Richard and a parishioner were RC chaplains to Bristol Prison for over 13 years). Our premises are used by a wide variety of migrant groups for meetings and gatherings that build their communities (eg the Ethiopian Orthodox Church meets weekly for worship at St Nicks). Our now well-known work with asylum seekers and refugees lies at the core of our parish’s identity and mission. It is also by far the most costly in terms of finance, time, energy and emotional stress. That is why we established and are actively supporting our ‘Borderlands Charity’. We have estimated an annual ‘footfall’ into our premises (by non-parish use) of 35,000.
We also support mission globally through CAFOD, Missio (The Red Mission boxes) and our homegrown ‘One World Schools’ (an initiative of some parishioners supporting a school in each of Gambia, Sierra Leone and Ethiopia). These of course are not a drain on parish income. In these and other ways we seek to be ‘Good News to the Poor’ (Luke 4). All this is in addition to the normal round of parish work and the costly maintenance of Victorian church buildings etc
The community that carries forward this mission is rich in faith, joy, celebration, diversity, commitment and enthusiasm: but poor in finance. Most of our parishioners who have work are in low pay occupations (often as Care Assistants). Many of our parishioners are still seeking safe asylum and are either on very minimal (sub-poverty) NASS (National Asylum Support Service) support, or are totally destitute by government decree. This means they have no roof over their head, no warm winter clothes, no food, very minimal health care, no money for personal or transport needs etc etc… unless we, their brothers and sisters in Christ, support them. Where one part of the Body suffers, we all suffer in the Body of Christ, teaches St Paul.
And in the midst of all these challenges, we are a joyful, welcoming Christian Community drawn from over 60 nationalities who are building our ‘Parish in Communion for Mission’ as a communion of communities that celebrates our diversity and walks alongside the poor and marginalised of our Inner City and beyond.