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Monday: 10.00 - 13.00
Tuesday: 14.00 - 17.00
Wednesday: 10.00 - 16.30
Thursday: 10.00 - 16.00
Friday: Closed

Registered Office:
Kent Workplace Mission,
c/o Larkfield Methodist Church,
New Hythe Lane, Larkfield, Aylesford, Kent,
ME20 6PN

From Penny Culliford, chaplain to YMCA Thames Gateway

Penny C

Offering a Welcome

The YMCA is the oldest and largest youth charity in the world. YMCA Thames Gateway covers London, Essex and Kent to the east of the Thames. We provide housing and support for young people who would not otherwise have anywhere to live, fitness and catering facilities and several pre-schools in Kent.

At YMCA Thames Gateway we have been thinking again about how to make people feel welcome in our buildings. Whether it is a friendly smile as someone walks through the door, helpful advice on fitness in the gym, or housing a young person who would otherwise be on the streets, everyone is welcome. As an inclusive organisation, it is one thing to know that we accept and embrace everyone, and something completely different to ensure that everyone knows they are accepted and embraced.

However, there can be a catch. Trying to include everyone may make some feel excluded. To have a welcome sign in a language to ensure a refugee feels at home, might alienate person who struggles with the idea of accepting refugees. A rainbow flag welcomes LGBTQ people, but may make someone who takes an unsympathetic view of gay relationships feel left out and a ramp to allow access for people who use wheelchairs may make it further to walk for a person who doesn’t! Does that mean that those who don’t accept refugees, are unsympathetic to gay people or don’t like to walk up ramps are any less welcome? It is a tension and a constant challenge for us.

The truth is, we do not, and cannot walk in anyone else’s shoes. As a Chaplain, I hear lots of people’s stories and there are often reasons they hold a particular viewpoint. YMCA Thames Gateway is a place where all groups are invited and welcomed, and we try to present opportunities for people to meet and intermingle across generations, nationalities, sexualities, cultures, religions and world views. Proximity leads to interaction which can in turn lead to, conversation and perhaps understanding. All that begins with people being welcomed into the same place at the same time.

I like this sign, used in several cathedrals and churches that welcomes all:


I feel our Chaplaincy has an important part to play that process of welcoming, wherever we worship or work. Jesus talked, interacted and healed those from all parts of society. He welcomed the children, whom others would turn away, discussed religion with a Samaritan, healed lepers, challenged Pharisees and accepted fishermen into his kingdom. He embraced diversity in a way we can only marvel at, eventually giving up his life for the whole world. And you can’t get more inclusive than that!