Transforming the communities of Essex & East London through Christ’s presence

Welcoming and hosting Ukrainian refugees in our parishes

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An introduction by Bishop Guli

We have all been deeply disturbed by the great act of evil we’re witnessing daily on our television screens and on social media in Ukraine. We’re seeing heart breaking stories that remind us of the destructive nature of war: on communities, families, and nations.
In Russia we’re seeing ordinary citizens take a stand despite the threat of retribution and punishment; from the small group of primary school children who were arrested for laying flowers outside the Ukrainian Embassy in Moscow to the thousands now protesting in major Russian cities. These acts show that this war is not being waged by the Russian people but the Russian state.

It’s easy to feel helpless when we are so far away, but we can make a difference.

Speaking out

In the United Kingdom we often take our freedom to speak out for granted, but we can make the most of that freedom now by keeping pressure on our Government to help Ukrainian refugees and all who seek refuge; by writing to our Members of Parliament, local newspapers and using our voices on social media.

Humanitarian work

We can donate to the many organisations supporting Ukrainians and humanitarian work across the world. In Chelmsford Diocese we are supporting an appeal led by the Church of England Diocese in Europe to provide humanitarian support to those in Ukraine and those fleeing to neighbouring countries.

Supporting those who are fleeing war in Ukraine and around the world

Alongside the scenes of devastation and despair we have witnessed on our television screens and social media in recent weeks, have been heart-warming stories of generosity. Strangers welcomed into people’s homes, often indefinitely.  My hope is that the UK Government’s ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme means that people in our communities who are in a position to be able to help, can now offer accommodation and hospitality to those fleeing war and devastation in Ukraine and I’m greatly encouraged that so many are already coming forward to do so.

In response to this generosity, Chelmsford Diocese has entered a partnership with Citizens UK that will support church communities that want to host and welcome people from Ukraine in their own communities. Citizens UK are aiming to resettle 1,000 refugees before Easter and Chelmsford Diocese will be a strategic partner, aiming to find communities for 50 refugees; that's approximately 10 parishes willing to host 5-7 people.

In recent years Chelmsford Diocese has helped welcome and support refugees from Syria and Afghanistan and as we seek to offer help to people from Ukraine, it is also vital that the work goes on to support all those across the world who flee from conflict and disaster.

The Rt Revd Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, Bishop of Chelmsford

An Update from our Communites for Ukrainians Support Team Co-ordinator, the Revd Andy Griffiths

17 June 2022

As you may remember, on 28 April 2022, we launched Communities for Ukrainians, working alongside our partners at Citizens UK our purpose was to support parishes that wanted to welcome and host people fleeing the war in Ukraine. Our aims were:

  • Working with Citizens UK, to provide parishes with practical support to match people who want to host guests in their home with people fleeing from Ukraine through the Government’s Homes for Ukraine Scheme
  • To help parishes ensure that for every Ukrainian hosted, there was a whole team ready to support them, pray for them, and offer this support and prayer to other hosts and Ukrainian guests in the area
  • To do all this along Community Organising lines - with a maximum of relationships and humanity and a minimum of statistics and spreadsheets
  • To expect God to bless and refresh churches through this project, getting our eyes off our own survival and onto the action of the living God in the world

Six weeks later, we can confidently say that these aims are being fulfilled. We are now almost at the end of the matching stage, with a total of 45 Ukrainian guests being matched with hosts. Every single one of them had a Zoom call with their prospective hosts and someone from the Diocesan Support Team. We have hosting hubs in Writtle, Woodford/Woodford Wells, Westcliff, Walthamstow, Kirby Le Soken, Ingatestone, Felsted, Colchester, Chigwell and Blackwater.

We’ve heard extraordinary stories – like L, who grabbed her mum and baby son and just got on a train westwards, alighting only when the baby was crying so much it was disturbing the other passengers. She got off the train to find herself in Germany, where the council put the family in a room in an old people’s home, without wifi and facilities for a baby; soon she developed pneumonia and needed two weeks in a hospital – but now she’s discharged and filling in forms and will soon be in Redbridge. Meanwhile, one refugee spoke to us on unstable wifi inside Russia – when her apartment block in Eastern Ukraine was being shelled, she had to escape in any direction possible, even if it meant going eastwards and trying to speak to Russian villagers without betraying her identity by a Ukrainian accent. She will need to cross the frontline again, get a train across Ukraine, and fly from Moldova. Little by little, you, the hosts and support teams are changing the world.

Nineteen of those people are now here in East London and Essex, and we’re hearing about visas being granted almost every day. There's B, who keeps saying “everyone’s so nice to me” and “I can see that you love Jesus, as I do too.” The most dramatic story is that of G, who arrived at the home of a host not part of our scheme and was turned away at the door. She was 8 months pregnant and rendered homeless in a country whose language she does not speak, so a host couple from our scheme stepped in and gave her a place to live. Just a few days later, she gave birth by C-section in Broomfield hospital, with her host as her birth partner. And so it is that our number of refugees increased by one, with no border crossing necessary! Yesterday, A, a 50-year-old man with a love of traditional rock and roll (not new-fangled rock and roll) has arrived by train and moved in with a couple in Walthamstow, while Y, a 28-year-old estate agent was met by a team from Writtle at Luton airport. I was there (hence the picture, and hence how tired I feel right now).

And of course it’s not just about accommodation. We also have social hubs in Writtle, Moulsham, Leytonstone and Ingatestone, being hospitable to local Ukrainians and their hosts. A recent Monday evening gathering saw 50 people in St John’s Moulsham, eating the cakes, speaking their languages, networking, using the prayer space, and feeling at home. A group of attenders have got together and asked us to host a special service to mark Ukrainian Independence Day on August 24, and did me the great honour of asking me to speak. I said I’d be glad to, as long as I could ask B to speak alongside me about her faith, too.

How you can support our Communities for Ukrainians Hubs

Our parih hubs would welcome the support of other parishes and worshipping communities across our diocese and particularly those who are nearby. 

There are many ways that support can be provided, from offering the use of a church building for occasional communtiy activity to fundraising and financial support. If your parish or worshipping community is interested in offering support to one of our hubs, please email our Communities for Ukrainians Support Team Co-ordinator, the Revd Andy Griffiths at


What does being a host parish entail?

Thanks to the fantastic response from parishes across Chelmsford Diocese, we now have eight hubs preparing to welcome guests from Ukraine and our focus is on enabling other parishes across the diocese to support these existing hubs. 

If your parish wants to put themselves forward as a host parish, we still want to hear from you and the sections below set out what being a host parish entails. 

Welcoming and supporting refugees into your community is a significant commitment and not every church community will be equipped to do this well. If you are interested in exploring this important ministry, the first step is for us to help you to discern whether it is the right thing to do.

We have partnered with Citizens UK because the approach they offer is similar to our previous refugee ministry. Working with Citizens UK, we will not only offer accommodation to our Ukrainian guests but a warm and welcoming community for them to join. 

You will need to be able to offer:

  • the backing of your PCC standing committee
  • accommodation in private homes for at least 6 months (could be up to 12 months)
  • food, at least until Universal Credit payments are arranged
  • a local team of at least five people to help your guests find work, transport, English language learning, childcare, assistance with paperwork and whatever else they need
  • a commitment to pray regularly, publicly and privately for the refugees and for their home towns, villages and cities in Ukraine
  • a public space such as a church hall or church with a kitchen where your guests can cook, socialise, invite others and celebrate their culture several times a week if they wish. We want our guests to be at home, and for many this includes an opportunity to be hospitable themselves.

Although we'd expect host households to be within walking distance of one another, we'd love to have applications from MMUs, alliances of ecumenical partners, or similar groupings.

What support will you receive?

The Government will offer:

  • £350 a month to each household offering accommodation
    • Under the terms of their visas, the Ukrainians will have the following rights to benefits and services for the three-years of the visa term
    • Access to Universal Credit, Child benefit and other benefits (though not to Housing Benefit element for the 6 months of the sponsorship)
    • Free access to the NHS – including dentist 
    • Schooling for children
    • College entrance

Citizens UK and the Diocese of Chelmsford will offer:

  • Ongoing communication and training
  • Site visits
  • A support team in Essex and East London, including a named contact whom the local team can call for help
  • Expert advice from Citizens UK’s professional team
  • A matching process with trusted partners in Eastern Europe, ensuring that due process is followed at that end of the chain

Further information about hosting

More information:

From the Church of England:

Church of England Ukraine toolkit:

From the Joint Public Issues Team:

From the Refugee Council:

UK Government FAQs on Homes for Ukraine:


The following details and guidelines will continue to evolve as Government guidance and policy develops:


Ensuring the safety of Ukrainian guests and hosts is absolutely essential.  Local Authorities will have a responsibility for ensuring that safeguarding practices are followed, but as a diocese we will also be working to ensure that safeguards are in place for participating parishes. We'll provide more details as hosts are identified. 


In most cases, Ukrainian guests will be living in someone else’s house and will only have a room (and perhaps a bathroom) to themselves.  In preparing the accommodation, it will be important to consider the following:

  • Privacy - how to ensure the Ukrainian guests have as much time and space to themselves as they want (Also, privacy factors for hosts)
  • Accommodation - All accommodation will be different and while there is no set expectation, your accommodation needs to be free from serious health and safety hazards. You should make sure your home is safe for your guests and that it is in a suitable condition. You will need to make sure that you have a working fire alarm, a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance, and a safe gas supply. You should also make sure that your guests have access to kitchen and bathroom space. You should also consider how many people you can accommodate so they have sufficient space. The law states that two people should not be in one room unless they are: adult cohabiting partners; a parent and child; two siblings of the same gender if aged over 10; two siblings regardless of gender if aged under 10. Individuals who didn’t previously know each other should not be given the same room.
  • Connectivity – access to wifi (+ laptop or tablet, if required), TV & radio in their room 
  • Access – ability of Ukrainian guests to come and go from the property (providing a key) 
  • Shared facilities – particularly bathroom and kitchen (cupboard spaces etc)
  • Meals - ability for Ukrainian guests to cook for themselves as well as sharing meals with hosts
  • House rules – consideration of what ‘rules’ hosts will want to be clear about.  Smoking, late-night hours, noise etc
  • Welcome Pack – of toiletries, treats etc


Chelmsford Diocese owned housing occupied by clergy or licensed lay ministers

If one of the homes you are considering offering  through Communities for Ukrainians is owned by the Diocese of Chelmsford and members of clergy or licensed lay ministers are living there please notify us using the sign up form.

If you are a member of clergy or licensed lay minister living in a diocesan property and you are considering offering a room(s) in your house, outside the Communities for Ukrainians Scheme, please let us know so we can offer you appropriate support and guidance. Please email


Vacant properties

If you have a vacant property that you think would be suitable as a home for guests from Ukraine, please indicate this when you put your parish forward for consideration as a host parish using our sign up form. We will then contact you directly. Hosting guests in vacant diocesan properties may not be as suitable as offering accommodation in a home that is currently inhabited and in some cases it can be more legally complex and time consuming to arrange. 

We are currently using 5 of our vacant properties across the diocese to house Afghan and Syrian refugees and we monitor our capacity to use vacant properties in this way as we work with our existing partners in refugee engagement.  In the light of the current crisis, we will be assessing whether there are any vacant diocesan properties that could be used to meet the current need (although many of these will be vacant because we need them to be available for pending clergy appointments or to house curates).    

Our priority is to focus our time and energy to ensure that there are enough good homes for every Ukrainian guest that requires one, rather than to ensure that all vacant properties are utilised.


Before your Ukrainian guests arrive

Each parish team should produce a short ‘Welcome Note’ that can be sent to your Ukrainian guests in their transit country. It should include

  • Information and photos of host household (& maybe parish team members)
  • Information and photos of house & refugee’s room
  • Information and photos about the local area
  • A welcome message

Hopefully, there will be an opportunity for Ukrainian guests coming to the UK through this scheme to speak via smartphone to their hosts. This will be a short ‘get to know you’ session.


Arrival in the UK

It is probable that most Ukrainians arriving in the UK through this scheme will come in big groups on specially organised transport.  It is therefore likely that the meet and greet at the airport or station would be provided by the Diocese, rather than the individual hosts, and that onward transport to East London and Essex would be organised by the Diocese, parish teams picking up and bringing ‘home’ refugees from this point. 


Arrival at ‘home’ + first day orientation 

Ukrainian guests will arrive at their temporary home tired and disorientated – possibly, a little elated too.  The host should offer either a chance to join a household meal or chance for the Ukrainians to opt out of that, therefore having alternative food options. 

At most, on arrival day the hosts should show the refugees around the house and explain how things they need to know about work. 

On the day after arrival, with the parish team involved, some orientation of the local neighbourhood should take place – shops, facilities, etc.  Also, some briefing on the various registrations and sign ups that will take place in the coming days.



If you have a school in your parish, and especially if you have a church school, please do talk to them about how the parish and school can work together to support your Ukrainian guests. 

Zoom briefing video

Communities for Ukrainians Support Coordinator, the Revd Andy Griffiths and the Archdeacon of Colchester, the Venerable Ruth Patten hosted a Zoom briefing on Wednesday 6 April 

This briefing provided an opportunity for participants to find out more and ask questions. 

Highlights from the briefing can be watched below.

Sign up to put your parish forward as a host with Communities for Ukrainians

If after consideration, discussion and discernment, your parish would like to move forward and be considered as a host parish with Communities for Ukrainians, please fill out our short questionnaire. We will then be in touch to discuss the next steps and provide further help and support. 

Complete the questionnaire

Get in touch, get involved!

If your parish wants to get involved, we'd love to hear from you!

If you are interested in supporting Communities for Ukrainians please contact Andy Griffiths at 

For all other queries, please email

A prayer

Dear Lord, you blessed us with new life
by crossing the borders of heaven and moving into our neighbourhood.

Your parents fled with you from violence,
carrying you in their arms in hope-filled fear.
We still our hearts:
help us know you are with us, making your home in us,

being yourself, in the presence of us being fully ourselves.
We act for justice and mercy:
help us see in those we host, and those who welcome us,
your image, valuable beyond words,
and your blessing that will bring new life.


Liturgical resource

Click here to download A service of the Word translated into Ukrainian and Russian

For more information please contact The Revd Andy Griffiths
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