Helping to increase the number of places where Gypsy Roma Traveller peoples may stop over, both legally and safely.
Who We Are
We are a small group of passionate people from various backgrounds and denominations with different experiences. We seek to challenge prejudice and work for harmony, understanding and co-operation between communities, churches and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people.
What Are Gypsy Roma and Traveller Friendly Churches?
The vision of ‘Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller Friendly Churches’ is to support churches to include Gypsies, Roma and Traveller people in the regular life of the church.
Ideally, each local congregation would offer support appropriate to its setting. This could be to European Roma, to local settled Gypsies and Traveller communities, or to those who are roadside and effectively homeless.
We will seek to promote and celebrate the engagement of churches across denominations as well as any other religious or secular groups working towards similar aims.
Why are Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Friendly Churches Needed?
The General Synod of the Church of England passed a resolution in February 2019, which included asking all dioceses to appoint chaplains for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people.
This was because synod acknowledged the frequent occurrence of serious racial prejudice, alongside episodes of hate crime, and significant poor outcomes in health, education, housing and other measures of social well-being for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.
Through our work, we have encountered various forms of hate and ingrained negative stereotypes against the communities, stemming from a lack of cultural awareness and understanding. We are here to help churches build bridges with the communities and support positive engagements within their neighbourhoods.
How Can Churches Get Involved?
- Sign up for our mailing list.
- Tune in to our webinars.
- Display the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Friendly Churches logo.
- Visit and talk with the communities.
- Welcome Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people into worship.
- Offer to bless houses and caravans and pray about concerns.
- Offer simple practical assistance.
- Celebrate Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month (June).
- Give access to water/toilets/refuse use for those who are roadside.
- Offer sanctuary.
The Church of the Good Shepherd as a Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Friendly Church.
For many years the Church of the Good Shepherd in Rossmore, Poole, has been seen by many of the Romany Gypsy community as their church.
There are a lot of Travellers settled in houses in Rossmore and before those houses were built there were Gypsy stopping places on the heathland. The small wooden church has a few local Travellers attending its Sunday services and has hosted many large Traveller funerals over the years. Its recently retired vicar, Rev’d Peter Homden, grew up in Rossmore and was well-known and respected by local Travellers. He’d often help people out with difficulties with the council, the police and other institutions. In 2019 an open-air service followed by a hog roast was held with local Travellers.
Five years ago the church began to host a non-contact boxing club, run by local Traveller Michael Johnson, which attracted many young Travellers and non-Travellers from the estate. The church also hosted the premier of ‘Ghost Gypsy’, a film about a young Traveller woman facing discrimination at school. Kushti Bok, a Dorset based Traveller organisation, regularly holds meetings at the church.
As Rev’d Jonathan Herbert, Chaplain to Gypsies and Travellers in Dorset and Wiltshire, recalls: ‘I remember taking a Traveller funeral at the Church of the Good Shepherd and how helpful everyone was. One of the people from the church told me she’d been in the local supermarket when she heard someone at the checkout complaining how the funeral would disrupt traffic. She said she put the person right saying how many Travellers she knew as trusted friends and how people should respect and learn from their funeral traditions.’
St Mary’s Parish Church in West Moors
There is a sign on the door of St Mary’s Parish Church in West Moors which often invites comment from those attending weddings, funerals, and other parish events. It is the Roma Chakra and it is the church’s way of saying that the Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller community are always welcome through its doors.
St Mary’s has a long and proud history of supporting the Traveller community in West Moors, but in particular during the tenure of Revd Andy Muckle, the present vicar. Andy has made it a particular focus of his ministry to reach out to the community and has been part of the group that supports the work of Revd Jonathan Herbert the Diocesan Chaplain to the Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller community.
A common sight in West Moors is Andy leading a funeral procession, walking through the Town from the church to West Moors Cemetery, where the Traveller community has a strong historical association. Andy has also been involved in advocacy work for the community, particularly in regard to recognising the distinctive nature of Traveller memorials in the Town Cemetery. It is an area of ministry that Andy and the church are proud to support.