Archbishop Jonathan Blake

The Most Reverend Jonathan Blake, Presiding Archbishop of the Open Episcopal Church B.A. (Hons), Dip. Pastoral Studies. Bishop's Haven, 105 Danson Crescent Welling DA16 2AS U.K. Mobile: 07767 687711 www.bishopjonathanblake.com bishopjonathanblake@ntlworld.com www.openepiscopalchurch.org www.twitter.com/bishopjonathan The Church is a member of The International Council of Community churches and the World Council of Churches. Married and a proud Dad.

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Location: London, Kent, United Kingdom

Gassed Tehran, seized Kabul, helped Mother Teresa, funded TB hospital, priest 1981, went Auschwitz, wrote on Parliament, convicted, began 1st inter-faith NHS chapel, 12 yrs Anglican cleric/vicar - left, baptised 1000's in homes/Mt Snowdon/at circus, wedding underwater, wrote ‘For God’s Sake Don’t Go To Church’, nailed 95 Theses 2 Canterbury cathedral, arrested, co-founded the Society for Independent Ministry, consecrated a bishop, co-founded the Open Episcopal Church, did 1st gay wedding on morning TV, sued Associated Newspapers, co-consecrated 1st women bishops 4 England,Wales,Scotland, accommodated the homeless, posted Mass/took it 2 sex workers, elected Archbishop, arrested 4 climbing with sons,founded ‘When No One’s Watching',made ICV, did Jade Goody's wedding,invited 2 Downing St, wrote 'That Old Devil Called God Again', conviction 4 campaigning against child abuse quashed on appeal, convicted 4 successful blogging 2 stop paedophile. His Christmas Lights raising £79,000 4 Water in 4 Gambian villages. Published "The Tales of Henry the Lovable Hedgehog", the SAFE New Testament + Psalms + radical Book of Common Prayer, ordained priests for UK,US,Thailand,Spain,Ireland

Thursday, August 18, 2022

THE VANISHING UKRAINIANS AND A CHAPEL RESTORED

It is our mysterious experience, that Love somehow has a way of revealing the truth. Even the deepest, most artfully executed deceptions are finally exposed.

One such experience was when we had chosen to foster and provided refuge to two unaccompanied young teenagers, 14 and 15, from Kosovo, one of whom had suffered 'the trauma of witnessing his mother being shot and her body dumped down the local well.'

They lived with us for nearly two years, attending the local schools and we began planning to go with them to visit their families in Kosovo. This genuine commitment to their well being, led to the revelation that in fact they were Albanian men, who had been sent to scam the U.K. system and send money back to Tirana, so their families could build new homes in the capital. They had witnessed no atrocities and their parents were alive and well.

When Russia began the war against Ukraine, we were quick to offer help to the fleeing Ukrainians, registering with national refugee agencies and on international web sites our willingness to offer refuge. 

We were contacted by many people. Trying to assess their situation and whether we could and should help was complex. For instance there was a Ukrainian woman who wanted us to house her elderly and infirm mother and carer. However, on further questioning we discovered that the daughter lived in America and could herself have housed her mother, but was looking for someone else to take on the responsibility.

We were contacted by two Ukrainian women who asked if we could accommodate them on a short term basis, plus their 4 children. On further questioning we discovered they were already safely in England, on the 'Homes for Ukrainians' scheme, housed in a property that a kind family had made available for them in the countryside. They had contacted us because they wanted to spend some time sight seeing in London.

A Ukrainian mother and child contacted us for help, who had been given refuge with Ukrainian relatives in Surrey, but they had fallen out after only a few weeks. They decided though, to return to the Ukraine.

Another Ukrainian family contacted us asking for help -  a mother, father, 5 month old baby, 2 year old and 4 year old. They had been granted a visa on the basis that the Ukrainian's father lived in London and would accommodate them under the 'Ukrainian Family Scheme', an offer that was then withdrawn. By then we had received another request that we believed had merit, so couldn't help them ourselves, but we ensured they were safely accommodated by the Sussex County Council.

To help the family, we believed had merit, and that we were to welcome into our home, we spent five hours completing all the forms, to help them apply for visas to find refuge with us. A seven week wait then followed, during which I was in regular communication with them. They arrived on May 24th. Mum, Dad and three children, 5, 11, and 15. 

We spent £2,500 preparing the house for their arrival, decorating, beds and bedding, play equipment and garden equipment.

Within four weeks we had the family registered with the local G.P. and dentist, equipped with bank accounts and U.K. mobile phone numbers, enrolled on English language courses, interviewed for Universal Credit, processed with their biometrics, and each of the children accepted into local excellent schools and equipped with uniforms.

We also made the house a magical environment for the family. New toys, including language learning gadgets, each day for the youngest child placed around the house. I also wrote a new large letter of the alphabet with chalk on the trampoline.

The older children made good use of the above ground swimming pool and enjoyed the table tennis table, air hockey table, snooker table and table football. The garden had swings, badminton, climbing ladder and climbing frame, basketball and weights.

We purchased additional items also, among them, a dinghy for the children to use in the pool, magnetic lettering to create words on the fridge door, transformer dinosaurs, and a remote control speedboat toy.

We facilitated every need and request for the family, taking them to Bluewater, to the doctor, to the shops, introducing them to the library, to the sports centres etc.

In those first months we also celebrated three of their birthdays, with gifts and special meals.

We were surprised though, in the first weeks to discover, that it had been their long held intention to leave Ukraine and seek a better life in Europe. They had already begun to prepare, holidaying in Spain, beginning to learn the language, looking at possible locations and opportunities. It seemed they were more economic migrants than genuine refugees. 

Their families and friends remained in Ukraine. This was of particular irritation to their older children. Allegedly, they had not been consulted about the decision to leave Ukraine, and had been fed a story about visiting their grandparents, only to find themselves being taken across the border. They were angry at the parents forcing them to  leave their lives behind, their schools and their friends.

We were told that the war and the chances to gain access to European countries had given the parents the perfect opportunity to fulfil their ambition. They had immediately left for Slovakia and managed to acquire a property, rent free. Then they researched the generous Homes for Ukrainians scheme that the U.K. was offering and realised this offered them a unique way to integrate into the U.K.

Another strange feature that emerged over the weeks, was that whatever we provided, whatever we did, however imaginative, caring or thoughtful we were, we rarely, if ever received a 'thank you'. Gratitude was not forthcoming. Not that we wanted it for ourselves, but its absence was an unusual indicator.

Nor did they want to establish a connection with any of the members of our family. No interest was shown, questions asked, rapport created. Despite all our best efforts to engage them warmly and involve them, they remained distant, spending most of their time in their rooms.

Further, we worked hard, washing the floors daily, keeping the kitchen immaculately clean, ensuring all the rubbish was sorted and kept the domestic requirements running like clockwork. We noticed that we were not helped in this. On the contrary, often we would have to do further cleaning and clearing because of how things had been left.

When the Ukrainians had become well established and all their practical needs had been sorted,  we began helping them prepare for what they would need to be able to acquire their own rental property at the end of the six months with us, looking at the market, the income threshold required and the help that would be available from Housing Benefit etc. We advised them that it would be prudent to plan and even look early, as the economy was under strain,  rents were rising and with many choosing to rent rather than buy, and so many Ukrainians and others also looking at the rental market, there would be limited availability, and that would drive the rents ever higher.

We provided them with links to multiple properties and job opportunities.

The father acquired a job in West London, that gave him a substantial income, that combined with a second income would have given them a pick of rental properties. The mother had worked full time in Ukraine, but now was committed to studying an online course and did not want to take available employment. Unbeknown to us, they began to  research alternative options.

Then on August 4th, we had all just come home, when I received a call from the Emergency Housing Department of the local Council, saying that he understood we had evicted the Ukrainian family and they had been at their offices all day, saying they were homeless and sleeping in their car!

I explained that this was false, we had not evicted them would never evict them and were committed to them staying with us for as long as was necessary, until they found their own accommodation. 

I then recalled a comment the father had made to me. That they were working on a plan. When I asked what it was, he wouldn't tell  me.

One of my sons ran up to their rooms and came down astonished - all their items had been taken and their rooms had been left dirty and their bedding unwashed. While we had been out, they had packed all their things into the car and headed to the council, to present themselves as homeless, expecting that the Council would provide them with a property.

We were in shock. They had said nothing to us. They had not said goodbye. They had not said thank you. They had just vacated.

The Council official was surprised. I assured him, that they were not homeless, were securely accommodated, but it seemed, had chosen to leave. I explained, that we would never have seen them homeless and had been committed to ensuring they would have a smooth transition from our home to their own property in time, when something suitable had been arranged. Even now, I stressed, if they had chosen to leave, and the Council wasn't going to accommodate them, we would lend them the money to stay in a Travelodge or some such, until they had sorted things. I also messaged the Ukrainians the same offer.

What the Ukrainians had not anticipated it seems, or read,  is that if you make yourself 'intentionally homeless' different rules apply re what the Council are required to do.

When they discovered that they wouldn't just be given their own property, they then applied to the father's employer,  for accommodation on the west side of London, nearer to his work place, which they had indicated would be their first choice. That is the last we have heard about them or from them.

They might have chosen to return to Ukraine, to re-join their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, however, I suspect it was never their intention to return, even if peace was assured. It is more likely that they have managed to achieve the 'first choice' that was in their mind to secure.

During their stay, when members of my family expressed surprise at their lack of apparent appreciation,  and now, when my family is reeling from how they chose to leave us, I have encouraged them to see that any good thing that we choose to do, out of love and kindness, is inviolable. How it is received does not affect the value or the quality of what has been offered. Love is a fragrant energy that goodness chooses to release. It has its own grace and potency.

In a world where there is so much negativity and hatred, it is essential that we cleave to our responsibility to be agents of life and Love, irrespective of the reaction, the cost or the outcome. Love is our only hope. Love.

Our confidence in Love is also affirmed, in that through life's unpredictable events and unforeseen developments, Love has always provided the way and the means to survive, has always confounded the deceitful and the dishonest and has always protected us, holding us in light, healing our wounds and strengthening our resolve to continue to do all we can to help those who are truly in need.

The parent's bedroom has now been returned to its former state and use, as a beautiful chapel. The room, as our home, provided refuge, safe harbour and Love to a family in transition. 

In truth, we are all in various states of transition, all being buffeted by the unpredictable climes of change and circumstance, all navigating the vast ocean of life, during which we may at times choose, for good or ill, to make headway, surrendering to the winds of truth or guile. 

However, the ultimate hope, revered in the chapel's embrace, is that the seeds of Love experienced by those, who may not have been all they seemed or claimed, and the memories that have been indelibly woven into their consciousness from those seeds of Love given, may in time produce an unexpected harvest of goodness within them and from them, blessing to the world.

So that, from even such apparently strange events, life, light and goodness may come.


ARCHBISHOP JONATHAN BLAKE - MY LIFE - PART ONE

ARCHBISHOP JONATHAN BLAKE - MY LIFE - PART TWO


I AM PROUD OF MY WRITING, FOR JESUS’S SAKE, THAT HAS HAD ME FOUND INNOCENT IN HEAVEN, BUT TWICE A CRIMINAL ON THE EARTH. THE FIRST IN 1990 WHEN I WROTE A BIBLICAL TEXT ON THE HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT IN PEACEFUL PROTEST ABOUT THE BOMBING OF YOUNG IRAQI RECRUITS DURING THE FIRST GULF WAR. THE SECOND, IN 2016 WHEN I WROTE ON MY BLOG, TO ALERT THE PUBLIC ABOUT A PAEDOPHILE, AND WAS SUCCESSFUL IN FORCING THE AUTHORITIES TO STOP HIM HAVING ACCESS TO CHILDREN. THERE WAS ALMOST A THIRD! IN 1997, WHEN I WAS ARRESTED FOR NAILING MY PROPOSALS FOR REFORM OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND ON THE DOOR OF CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL. WORDS ARE POWERFUL MESSAGES THAT CHALLENGE  CORRUPTION, CONFRONT THE WICKED AND CREATE A BETTER WORLD. JESUS IS THE WORD OF GOD AND HIS FOLLOWERS ARE CALLED  TO COMMUNICATE HIS WORDS,  IRRESPECTIVE OF THE COST.
"You brave, courageous and wonderful man. To stand up for the truth
 in the face of suppression and oppression is truly an act of a pure heart."




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