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Manchester: a place where everyone feels at home

First published on: 6th February 2024

One of the many things that makes Manchester Diocese such a vibrant place to live and work is the rich diversity of people that make up our communities. We are blessed to live in a multicultural region with a range of influences on our food, music, arts, and our churches. Over recent years, many new migrant communities have made Greater Manchester and Rossendale their home and found comfort, companionship, and joy in our churches.

This Racial Justice Sunday (11th February) we have been asked to think about the hospitality with which we greet those who have moved into our parishes. Our churches are places of welcome to all people seeking sanctuary, and we seek to embrace a culture of welcome, generosity, and safety.

To explore this topic further, we spoke with Canon David Onabanjo, Intercultural Mission Enabler and Reader at St Cross Church, Clayton. He shares some suggestions for welcoming visitors from other cultural heritages into your churches.

  1. Offer a genuine welcome

We can all sense when a welcome is genuine. More than a simple greeting, it involves real warmth, a little time, and a sincere interest in getting to know a person. Ask questions, take an interest, and introduce newcomers to others in the congregation.

People moving into your area might be trying out a few churches to see which one feels right to them. Our aim is to reduce any initial anxieties that people might feel when walking into a new place of worship so that they instantly feel at home.

  1. Take time to check in between services

Sunday mornings can be a busy time and may not be conducive to a longer discussion. David recommends asking your new visitors if they are willing to share their contact details (emails, telephone numbers etc) and then dropping them a line in the week.

A simple conversation to find out how they are and if there is any way you can help them settle into the local area can make them feel that your church is the one they want to return to again and again.

  1. Invite children and young people to find their place

Part of the joy of a growing church is welcoming families to worship. An invitation to join your Sunday school helps children feel settled and is seen as a valuable addition to their education. As children get older, asking them to lead prayers, read in church or take on a role such as Alter Server is a wonderful way to include them in the service.

  1. Consider an excursion or trip away

Travel can be a fun way to create a sense of community. It brings together people who might not normally socialise with one another and those who travel with you often feel a deeper sense of commitment to the church. A day out in Blackpool, a pilgrimage to Walsingham, or a visit to a Cathedral are all fantastic opportunities to draw closer as a community and deepen in faith.

  1. Come together in celebration

Food is a universal language and a unique way to share in each other’s culture. Arranging an event and encouraging people to bring a dish from their heritage is a wonderful way to learn more about one another.

Finding out more about the culture of your community opens up more opportunities for celebration. For example, naming ceremonies are very important in Nigerian culture and a very valued tradition where clergy makes a special welcome of the mother on her first time attending church following the birth attending the church, thus introducing the newborn baby and family and sharing the name of the newborn. This has become a joyful addition to some of our churches alongside baptisms and confirmations.

  1. Encourage participation

We know that being able to practice faith and to express oneself through music can encourage migrants and refugees as they build new lives and homes. It helps with finding a common sense of humanity in the societies to which they move.

Incorporating hymns, reading the psalms or gospel in native tongues, offering translation services and including gospel readings are ways to connect with homes left behind. They also enrich and enliven services for all those who attend.

  1. Offer hope, practical support and encouragement

Migrant communities often need additional support in settling in an area. It isn’t a case of one size fits all and our approach is always to understand and respond to the needs of others. Some of our churches have offered additional pastoral sessions to support those who have found that their lives have been turned upside down.

Others have needed more practical support with housing, schooling, or simply sharing local knowledge. You don’t need to have all the answers, but being there to walk alongside someone, supporting them in any way you can is so valued.

If you would like to share your experiences or get in touch with Canon David, you can email him at or call 0161 828 1468 / 07484 030 756.

Read more about how migration has revitalised a parish in North Manchester.



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