Margaret Williams, Lay Reader from St Andrew’s, Ardrossan, retells the story of welcome and friendship that can start anywhere.
A Knit and Knatter group has been held for some time in St Andrew’s church hall on Thursday mornings during term time. It started as a small group from the congregation. However, this changed when some local Syrian men, who had come to Scotland as refugees, were looking for a place for Friday prayers as travel to the mosque in Glasgow was both challenging and expensive. With the permission of Bishop Gregor, the men were invited to use St Andrew’s church hall. It then became evident that somewhere for the women to gather and practise their English would be welcome. These Syrian families have been housed in North Ayrshire following a Government invitation to refugees from the camps in Lebanon some years ago. The women were invited to join our group, which, in spite of the name, is not just a group of knitters. Our members knit, crochet and sew as well as do some other crafts.
We are still very small in number, just a handful, although we have been joined by a few people from other churches. There are about eight Syrian ladies who come along, but very seldom all on the same week, especially as their English classes sometimes clash with our meetings. Members of the church and contacts in North Ayrshire Council have donated materials for us to use. Some of the women are very talented and we are able to learn skills from them. Others have learned from us.
Recently patchwork bags have become a popular ‘make’ and there are friends and relatives from both communities who will be receiving these as birthday gifts! Each session includes coffee and biscuits but on occasion, we are treated to what amounts to a full meal, provided and cooked by our Syrian friends.
The success of our group is due, I believe, to the fact that it was not set up as an interfaith ‘project’ but stemmed from an invitation to come together. We have built friendships, some understanding of each others’ faith and seen their English improve. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about our Arabic!