In a Diocese as large as Europe churches try to pray for one another and share one another´s concerns.
At a recent meeting of the Germany Deanery Synod, in reply to a request for information, a letter from Canon Malcolm Bradshaw in St Paul´s Athens giving an insight into life in the Greek capital during the much publicized financial crisis was read out. We reproduce edited highlights below to assist your prayers and concerns for the church trying to help in difficult circumstances.
The austerity programme is biting hard and it is increasingly evident on the streets. God only knows what is happening behind closed doors.
To add to the picture is the acute problem of refugees and migrants entering Greece daily and in substantial number. Its borders with Turkey are porous and difficult to monitor with all the islands. Nor has Greece the means for processing them let alone provide food and shelter. Once in Greece such people are largely trapped, the borders are closed to the rest of Europe. You can imagine the social problems.
The Orthodox Church in Greece is providing 250,000 free meals each day, 10.000 of these are in Central Athens.
The project St Paul’s is involved in (Church in the Street) is providing 800 meals per day in down town Athens to anyone who turns up. The majority are migrants from Algeria, Iran Iraq, Afghanistan and West Africa. A substantial number are women with children. We are increasingly seeing the presence of Greeks. It is a project largely financed by the Orthodox Church. We provide personnel to help with the distribution. Two African Pentecostal churches are involved. This is the only ecumenical project in town that I know of. The Orthodox and ourselves created it. It is under the patronage of the Archbishop of Athens and all Greece.
We have our own ‘Ephraim Boms Fund’ which we set up before Christmas (in memory of a Reader at St Paul´s who died tragically during 2011). The collection from the Christmas Carol service provided it with its first tranche of money. We are using it to help meet the needs of members of our congregation – needs which are ever increasing. A third of our congregation is from Africa often illegal immigrants. Others have their papers in order but no job and little to no NHI support because of some employers failing to make their contributions.
Last Sunday we paid from out of the fund the cost necessary for medical tests on a newly born that did not appear to be developing as it should. The parents are Nigerian and loyal members of St Paul’s. The father works in a taverna but has not been paid for at least three months. As a result they have had to down size their accommodation which was not much to start with. He remains with the taverna in the hope that payments will start again. If he could move to another job he would – but there is no job.
We have been asked to buy five sleeping bags for five men who sleep in one room each having only a blanket to cover them and no mattress. They are charged for the room. Night temperatures are very low at present. One is a loyal member of the church. None have regular employment. So it continues.
The Ephraim Boms Fund has limited income (Euro 1,500) and will quickly diminish no matter how careful we are with expenditure – such are the demands. It needs replenishing and that will prove difficult for the local congregations. It is used for church members facing hardship but we expect requests from beyond our membership to be received and where possible they will be met. Members of the Church bring in basic food stuffs each week to be distributed among members in hardship. It is limited in the face of the need.
Canon Bradshaw adds that if anyone wants to make a donation to the Ephraim Boms fund it can be sent to the Diocesan Office, clearly marked for the Greater Athens Chaplaincy and the Ephraim Boms Fund in particular.