Art & Soul
Art & Soul is an ‘art, faith and culture’ group with a Christian ethos, mainly for women seeking asylum (or with refugee status) here in Leicester. We bring together people from a vast range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds and age groups, with a wealth of wisdom and experience, building intercultural and intergenerational relationships as we listen to one another and learn from each other. We seek to share the abundant love and extravagant welcome of Jesus, who delights in each one of us whatever we have been through. We support one another with practical and pastoral needs. We grapple with Google Translate and impromptu charades where language is a struggle. We share our stories, our hearts and our lives as we journey together and navigate the curveballs of the asylum system as those arise. We cultivate unlikely friendships over drinks and snacks. We listen to one another's favourite music, share childhood memories and traditions, and sometimes dance together. There is always laughter, and sometimes tears, and we hold space for one another to process life's experiences. We explore and practice social justice and reconciliation, considering how each of us individually and collectively play our part in transforming unjust societal structures. And, of course, we give voice to our unique narratives and experiences through painting together! Let us know if you’d like to join in.
(For practical support services, see the Signposting Template HERE! We end up doing a fair bit of triaging at our Art & Soul gatherings, when practical needs arise that one of Leicester's fantastic charities can support with.)
Within the asylum system there seems to be a crushing lack of agency: many of those seeking asylum in Leicester have little opportunity to make decisions for themselves about their own lives, particularly relating to where or how they live or what they eat, and are moved around from place to place at a moment’s notice with what seems like very little care given to the process. This can feel profoundly dehumanising, particularly over a long period of time. Offering a welcoming space where people have opportunity to paint whatever they like and share something of who they are if they choose to do so, can restore something of a person’s sense of humanity, dignity and agency. We see this space as holy ground. Within this context, stories from people’s experiences and from the Bible can be shared and reflected upon, and relationships and friendships can be built between people who might not otherwise have chosen to mix. Providing space in which those friendships can begin and grow can have a transformative effect on the lives of people who may have felt deeply isolated.
For participants who would like to share their stories with a wider audience, giving voice to their experiences and being heard by people across Leicester, Art & Soul provides opportunities for people to paint, write and/or record something of themselves which can be shared, if desired, with people from different churches. This will have the joint purpose of encouraging participants to have a voice and to know that their experiences are heard, valued and prayed for, and to raise awareness of both the immense suffering that many people face within the asylum system and the immense strengths and gifts that people have. For the same joint purpose, we sometimes do group art exhibitions involving participants' paintings and quotes. This, we hope, plays a small part in growing increasing empathy among the viewers, and building bridges between people of vastly different lifestyles and experiences.
Roots and Art & Soul
Any Roots members who have a passion for this work are welcome to explore possibilities around how they might be involved with Art & Soul sessions! We would love to bring people together and expand this ministry, and there are a variety of different ways to get involved. (Get in touch with Kat if you’d like to explore this!)
There is also an open invitation to all Art & Soul attendees to come along to other Roots gatherings. These tend to involve prayer for one another, exploring passages of the Bible together, discipleship conversations, intercultural worship in various forms and styles, and opportunity to build relationships with other believers from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds in a space of mutual learning and collective growth - and sometimes food! We endeavour to make our gatherings as accessible as possible to Art & Soul members and others.
Pastoral Support & Churches
A number of people connected to different churches across the city have expressed a desire for some kind of contact with asylum seekers and refugees, and through the relationships we build at Art & Soul we are able to put people in touch with one another for ongoing prayer and support where appropriate. We also identify concrete needs that local churches may be able to fulfil. All of this takes place within our safeguarding frameworks.
For 1-1 pastoral support, we have a small team of people who are trained, equipped and supported to engage in this important ministry. Let us know if you’d like to explore being part of that team, and we can have a chat together about what it might involve and what the process looks like.
For practical needs, there are so many different possibilities - get in touch if you'd like to be involved, and we can explore it together. Also if you have something specific in mind that you’d like to offer or a particular gift you’d like to express within this context, do let us know and we can figure out how it might work! And if you’d like to give towards this ministry, either through providing particular kinds of art supplies, kids' gifts, giving financially or giving of your time in other ways, please do get in touch - we’d love to chat with you about it.