An interactive six-week course has just been released to help churches welcome new arrivals in the UK from Hong Kong.
The Welcome Course, from UKHK, aims to help new arrivals find information, friends and support as they settle and integrate into their local churches and communities.
The course, released this month, is already running in 53 churches across the UK. Attendees can develop English conversational skills and confidence, build friendships, learn about British culture, be signposted to services and share their knowledge of Hong Kong culture. Each session comprises a video providing light-hearted conversation and discussion starters. The sessions are broken down into six topics: moving to the UK, exploring British culture, making friends, enjoying wellbeing, solving problems and valuing citizenship.
Over 100,000 people from Hong Kong have chosen to move to the UK following the introduction of the British Nationals Overseas (BNO) visa scheme, offered by the UK Government in January 2021.
St John’s Haydon Wick in Swindon has also started running a Welcome Course. Every Monday, 40 people gather together for a meal, fellowship and space for mutual support and advice.
Mary Tippetts from St Stephens City Church, Bristol, also ran a pilot of the Welcome Course last month. Mary said: “The participants had a really good time, and we had a good discussion after watching the videos – which were very thought-provoking. I think we could have done with another hour to discuss! One participant even baked Hong Kong bread for us to enjoy with our cup of tea. I would thoroughly recommend running the course in person. All in all, a lot of fun was had whilst we learned together."
The resource has been put together by UKHK, a Welcome Churches project, which seeks to see every refugee in the UK be welcomed by their local church. The Welcome Churches Network has over 1000 churches dedicated to welcoming refugees, asylum seekers, and new arrivals to the UK.
Emily Shepherd, Joint CEO of Welcome Churches said, “It’s expected that over 2.3 million Hong Kong BN(O) visa holders will move to the UK, that roughly equates to the entire Christian population of the UK. The outpouring of generosity by congregations, individuals, and local organisations towards settlers of all kinds in the UK has been just wonderful. Our hope is that this course can provide an easy way for every BN(O) visa holders arriving in the UK to be welcomed by their local church. Hopefully, those arriving from Hong Kong will feel more confident in asking for help, accessing services and being able to rely on British friends to provide support and community.”
Mark Nam, Minority Ethnic Vocations Champion for Bristol Diocese and founder of The Teahouse, a network serving Chinese-heritage clergy in the CofE said, “This course is an incredibly well put-together initiative. It provides much more than helpful and practical information for new arrivals. It offers a genuinely open and safe space where people from Hong Kong can connect with members of their local church to receive friendship, encouragement and support. The course brings people together and builds community—it is good news! I highly recommend it to any churches seeking to engage with new arrivals in an effective and fun way.”
The Welcome Course is available for free in English with Cantonese subtitles, with each host receiving a special pack to guide them through the six weeks. The course can be hosted by anyone, in any location - online and in person.
If your church or community group would like to host a Welcome Course, please visit: www.ukhk.org/welcome-course-for-churches