Just over three years ago, members of St John's Church planted 'Sanctuary' - a new congregation meeting on Sunday evenings at 6pm, with the intention of creating a safe and hospitable space particulate for students and young adults in the local Hoxton neighbourhood. We deliberately adopted an informal style of worship, curated a programme of relevant and accessible talks, and a relational approach to exploring faith together. We were supported by a grant from the Diocese of London to help develop the work by employing an Assistant Minister for the church for the first two years. (You can read more about the work here.)
Sanctuary was always envisaged as a piece of mission work of the wider St John's Church community, and to that end, we've recently been re-imagining what that might look like during the course of 2018.
In the autumn of 2018, around 2,500 people will probably move into the Hoxton neighbourhood. They will be admixture of people: up to 2,000 will be students - living in the local halls of residence (UAL Will Wyatt Court, UrbanNest; IQ Shoreditch; Scape Hoxton) - but also people who have moved into shared houses in Hoxton as they start new jobs in the autumn, and also new families who are rehoused or resettled in the neighbourhood.
How will they find their arrival in Hoxton? Will it be daunting? Overwhelming? Will some of them have ever lived so near the centre of an urban metropolis before? Will students feel homesick and dislocated? Will some of them struggle with language issues? Will some need help finding local cafes and launderettes? The answer to all the above is almost certainly 'yes'!
So what can members of St John's Hoxton do to help people arrive in Hoxton with a warm sense of welcome and with friendly neighbours who will help them find their feet and get their bearings?
That's the question we're going to try to address over the coming months.
From April to July 2018 we're going to build a 'LoveHoxton' team in our church - to think about how we can welcome people in the autumn as they move into our neighbourhood. We're going to do this by gathering on Sunday evenings from 6-7.30pm, and undertaking three key pieces of work:
- Pray - we will pray for the people who will be moving into Hoxton in the autumn. We don't yet know their names - but we know they're coming! We'll pray for students, people relocating for new jobs, families finding housing in the neighbourhood. We will pray that they would feel welcome and find friendship - and ultimately that they would come to 'LoveHoxton' as much as we do.
- Plan - we will plan a range of events and activities for the autumn term to help people feel at home in Hoxton. We will probably run an Alpha course in the autumn for people who want to explore the big questions of life. We will also plan social activities - including music nights; food events; sports activities and anything else that captures our imagination. If you have great ideas for how too make someone feel at home, this is the place to share them!
- Prepare - we will prepare ourselves for greeting people with love, joy and hope. We will be using the 'Gospel in Life' course to help us think about our own faith, and the difference it makes to the city where we live. We will spend time each month with an evening of extended worship, prayer and holy communion. We will have some social activities for the team to get to know one another and to undertake some of our planning.
Sounds Great! What Next?
If you'd like to be a part of the LoveHoxton team, joining with us to pray, plan and prepare, simply email firstname.lastname@example.org with 'Count Me In!' in the subject line! We'll let you know all the dates we have planned for April to July 2018. You're under no obligation to come to everything, but it would be great to have you involved.