Capacity for Creativity

Max reflects on the need to recognise and elevate the creative potential of our International Community as foundational in advocating for change.

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With so many twists and turns in legislation, particularly in the unpredictable and changeable nature of the current political climate, people seeking asylum can be reduced to statistics, points, and arguments. Amidst the political rhetoric and declaration to stop the boats, and ambitions to reduce net migration, the humanity of people seeking asylum, and their need to seek a place of sanctuary, can get lost.

The ongoing hostile environment, the Rwanda Deportation Bill, the Illegal Migration Bill, and the Bibby Stokholm housing barge are just a few examples of the increasing unwelcome pressure put upon people seeking asylum in the UK. Particularly in the month of Pride, it is important to remember how these aggressive obstacles can have a compounding negative impact on individuals fleeing persecution on the grounds of their sexuality or gender identity. The hope of the UK as a place of safety in reality can be difficult to trust when there are people in power signalling other messages.

Our International Community members may often have to be resourceful and creative in their day-to-day living, out of necessity and because of harsh restrictions and limitations imposed upon them. A creativity that could be used to live and express oneself more fully is reserved for the pressures of the asylum-seeking process. I wonder how we, as a wider community, might be able to collectively offer a spaciousness, without imposition. How might we show up for others, creating spaces or points of access where that creativity can be channelled beyond the day-to-day. Not just to sustain and get by, but as a place to explore what futures might look like. A place where people can get messy and playful.

Being alongside the community, in the short time I’ve been at St James’s, I have been entrusted with intimate and personal parts of people’s lives and experiences. This vibrant and welcoming community holds a rich, nuanced and diverse constellation of individual and shared histories. However, as anyone, our international family also holds a rich tapestry of futures that impacts us all. The energy and attention often required to respond to a system and to advocate for oneself can be draining and exhausting, and take away the time and energy needed to explore those futures more fully and deeply. I see my role not solely as support, not a giving to or doing for, because that would deny the capacity all our members hold. More broadly, I am interested in working collaboratively to create those spaces to reimagine.

It is my hope that the International Community at St James’s continues to grow and that the church is able to further extend its radical welcome to people at all stages of their journey through the asylum-seeking process. With any group, there is ebb and flow, and as people move through life we should remain open, available, and visible to people in need of community, and respond to a natural changing rhythm. As the community grows, so I hope too will their collective voice. Not solely a voice to share their stories and histories that will touch, enlighten, or educate about the challenges moving through the system, but also to be an affirmative voice that says ‘we are here’. A resonant voice where members can bring all parts of themselves, in ways that are meaningful and choicefull for each person. A voice that might say ‘no, I don’t want to share my journey with you, I want to share my future’.

Stories can be an intimate and powerful way of connecting, but they can also be vulnerable and challenging. Our stories can sometimes take hold of us, or fix us in the eyes of others. The more in contact I am with our International Community, the more I notice how my usual appetite for stories lessens. I find that I do not always need to know the intimate details of someone’s journey, nor should that information always be available. Our stories are unique to all of us and a significant blueprint to how we might show up in the world today. I think about polarities and about how I try to strike a balance: to recognize the importance of our stories, whilst loosening my need of others’ stories and intimacies. I think of the space that frees up, opening other potential ways we can be together.

I see a huge generosity and joy in our International Community and experience a group of people much more than their immigration statuses. I am curious and excited to see what this collaborative and vivid spirit may continue to shape. What might these platforms look like if we are to truly recognize and elevate the agency that exists with our community?