This months newsletter comes from our Assistant Minister (Reader), Adam Hardy
This month I wanted to write something about the recent Black Lives Matters Protests and how the church is responding and waking up to its own failings with regard to racism. However, the more I researched, I found that the Sermon preached on Sunday 21st June for the Church of England online service by Rev Andrew Moughtin-Mumby covered all that I wanted to say:
“Jesus says, ‘Even the hairs of your head are all counted.’ As God says to us through the prophet Isaiah, ‘You are precious in my sight and honoured and I love you.’ Perhaps more than ever, right now, let’s remember God’s great love and care for each one of us, and let’s be part of showing that love and care to all our fellow human beings. For I believe that our world is facing three major global pandemics. Firstly, we have been slowly waking up to the reality of the climate crisis and the need to care so much better for the earth, our common home. Secondly, we have woken up very quickly to the coronavirus pandemic which has forced us to really change urgently the way we live now and into the future. Thirdly, many people have been brutally woken up in recent weeks to the global pandemic of racism in the light of the awful murder of Mr George Floyd, who is, tragically, just one of a still growing list of people of colour who have lost their lives while in police custody in the USA and here in the UK. All three of these pandemics are especially affecting black and minority ethnic people across the world.
Tomorrow is Windrush Day, the 22nd June marking the 72nd anniversary of the arrival of The Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks in East London. The Windrush was one of a number of former troopships which travelled from the UK to the Caribbean returning serving British Commonwealth troops to their homes, and on the return journey bringing, at the invitation of the British government, Jamaican and other British Commonwealth citizens from the West Indies to the UK, to help rebuild life in Britain after the Second World War.
Many who came to England experienced horrible racism in society and unfortunately in our parish churches. But that racism is a stain on the soul of our Church. And there is still racism in the Church today, and it is a very serious disease and a sin which I believe each one of us is called to work hard and work urgently to end.
So, I want to ask you some questions this morning:
First question, is it right to treat people with less respect or love because of the colour of their skin? Is it right to hurt people because of the colour of their skin? And finally, do we, friends, want a world where people are treated the same whether they have black, brown or white skin?
Well I hope you all answer the way I think you did!
When we think of the Windrush generation, though, and their children we also remember the amazing contribution those generations have made in the life of this country and indeed in the Church, and that makes us thankful. This beautiful robe that I am honoured to wear for this service is called the Windrush Cope. It was designed by Terry Duffy and includes thanksgiving, lament and protest. It features Bishop Rose Hudson-Wilkin who was born in Montego Bay Jamaica, as was I by coincidence. Bishop Rose has done great things in the Church of England, but has also faced discrimination and racism, and has said that we in the Church need to work hard to get our own house in order. She is now the Bishop of Dover.
The cope also features Sam King MBE who was born in Jamaica, served as an RAF aircraft engineer during the Second World War, and returned to Britain on the Empire Windrush in June 1948. Sam experienced both racism and kindness in his life in Britain. As the first black person to be Mayor of Southwark he received death threats from the National Front who said that a black person should not be Mayor. Mr King was awarded an MBE by The Queen in 1998 for services to his community.
The cope also features a large Cross, the cross reminds us that Jesus is especially close to us when we suffer, but also reminds us that when we hurt people through racism or discrimination, we hurt Jesus too. Jesus who was a person of colour, who was brutally murdered himself unjustly.
Dear friends, even the hairs of your head are all counted. Friends, I believe more than ever that the whole human family is on a journey. A mental, spiritual and emotional journey. St Paul tells us that our old self has died with Christ, so that we can be dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus Christ. May Jesus Christ give you and me the grace today and every day to live a new life as citizens of the kingdom of heaven here on earth, so that all God’s children may be free and flourish with the fullness of life which Jesus promises us all. Amen.”