UCC Churches Rally Around Ukranian Refugees in Poland

UCC Churches Rally Around Ukranian Refugees in Poland

A cut-out card made by one of the refugees in the Reformed congregation in Łódź. First Church in Marlborough will be using it as our bulletin cover for Easter. Congregations that have participated in the relief efforts or are planning to are welcome to use it as well.
The following is an update from the Rev. Kazimierz Bem, pastor of the First Church in Marlborough, MA, and a native of Poland. (More on his church's fundraising efforts here.)

While the war in Ukraine is waging and making headlines, people and congregations across the world are responding to the humanitarian disaster with generosity and stunning kindness.
Since last week the number of Ukrainian refugees in Poland has surpassed 2.3 million and another million is spread across other countries in the region. It is the largest humanitarian disaster in Europe since World War II. To give you a sense of the scale of what is happening: Krakow, the old Polish capital, a city of 800,000 inhabitants is now home to 200,000 refugees. Warsaw saw an increase in population by 30%. People are being placed in gymnasium halls, old railway buildings, even schools. Some refugees are staying for a few days and moving on to their families in the West of Europe, other are preparing to stay in Poland for the foreseeable future.
Of the 140 Lutheran and Reformed congregations in Poland, over half are sheltering refugees on their premises. These “guests” (as they are being called) are housed in parish halls, old manses, guest rooms, and even Sunday school rooms. Individual church members have taken in families too – those who can’t host them invite them over for meals. If my estimate is correct, there are at any moment around 800 refugees housed in Lutheran and Reformed churches and church buildings. The overwhelming majority of the refugees are women and children, men are few, mainly with serious physical and mental challenges. The number of people helped is growing as many congregations are busy re-adapting any free space they can find to make room for more families.
I will share with you a few stories that I have received from the Diakonia and the congregations themselves:
  • The 50-member Lutheran congregation in Węgrów is housing 28 people in the parish hall from the bombed city of Kharkiv, a family 4 in another church building and yet another family of 6 has found accommodation with church folk. You read it right: a congregation of 50 is helping 40 people! The congregation is hoping to refurbish the old day center to be able to house more families and give them a semblance of independent living. The current living facilities offered are on the photos: https://www.facebook.com/wegrow.luteranie/photos/pcb.1917288895138745/1917287228472245

  • The 35-member Reformed church in Żychlin is housing an extended family of 9 and is planning to take an additional family. The old church guest house needs some upgrades so that the family might feel like it is their own (electric stove, washer, drier) – even if far away from home. The family has settled well with the congregation, leading prayers for peace on Sunday. Photos: https://www.facebook.com/ZychlinReformowani/photos/a.1015197721921688/4869944849780270/ 
  • The refugee shelter of Lutheran and Reformed congregation in Krakow is up and running. Over 36 women and children are regular guests and are fed, housed, given clean clothes, legal and psychological aid. The shelter is set up to be a safe space for women and children only. Another shelter (funded in part by the Diakonia) is in the works.
  • Diakonia and individual congregations in Poland continue to deliver aid to Ukraine as far as they are possible and if it is safe. The modus operandi is that a van goes to Ukraine full of goods – and comes back with refugees that need housing, support – a safe haven. More: https://www.facebook.com/ReformowaniLodz/photos/pcb.4915620881825584/4915619771825695
 I have plenty other stories from Łódź, Warsaw, Drogomyśl, Aleksandrów – and many other places.
Please bear in mind that these congregations are preparing to house and support these refugees for the long term: at least half a year, maybe longer. Who knows how long this war will last? The apartments and guest rooms were often a source of addition income for these congregations but now they are not only foregoing it, but also taking on the support of these refugees for months to come. Congregations are now planning for kindergartens and nurseries so that refugee women can look for work and go to work, language courses, and connecting refugees with potential employers.
All this this work is possible partially thanks to your generous donations! Over 27 UCC congregations (mentioned below) have already contributed, and we were able to send Diakonia $20,000. Other churches have indicated they will join in during Easter. Aid is given by these congregations regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation. I know of at least two congregations that took in refugees who were not of European descent.
This is all to say: “Thank you!” Your generosity has been impressive. I would ask you to consider please prayerfully doing an Easter collection for these refugees. We at Fist Church are looking to moving from immediate assistance to supporting four or five congregations in long term and sustain them in their refugee relief work.
As a sign of gratitude I am attaching a cut-out card made by one of the refugees in the Reformed congregation in Łódź. We will be using it as our bulletin cover for Easter. If your congregation has participated in the relief effort or is planning to – you are welcome to use it too.
For all your open hearts and a truly Christian spirit - to God be praise and glory!
UCC congregations that have participated so far:

South Glastonbury Congregational Church, CT.
South Congregational Church, East Hartford, CT
Milton Congregational, Litchfield, CT
Shalom UCC, New Haven CT
United Church on the Green, New Haven CT
United Congregational Church of Westerly UCC, CT
First Congregational Church of Brimfield, MA
Old South Church, Boston, MA
Second Congregational Church, Boxford, MA
First Congregational Church of Chelsea, MA
Groveland Congregational Church, Groveland, MA
Pilgrim Congregational Church in Harwich Port, MA
Pilgrim Congregational Church, Lexington, MA
First Church in Marlborough (Congregational) UCC, MA
First Congregational Church in Needham, MA
First Congregational Church of Saugus, MA
First Congregational Church of Sheffield, MA
First Congregational Church of Shrewsbury, MA
First Congregational Church of West Boylston, MA
Village Congregational Church, Whitinsville, MA
Foreside Community Church, Falmouth, ME
Presque Isle Congregational Church, UCC, Presque Island, ME
Congregational Church of Sandy Point, Sandy Point, ME
Sandy Point Church, Stockton Springs, ME
United Congregational of Little Compton, RI
Richmond Congregational Church, VT
First Congregational Church of Huston, TX



Kaz J. Bem

The Rev. Kazimierz Bem is the Pastor of the First Church in Marlborough (Congregational). 

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