Happy New Month!
In October many in the UK mark Black History Month. This is a month of events and
activities which celebrate the culture, history and achievements of Britain’s African and
Caribbean communities. In light of the covid-19 pandemic and ongoing Black Lives
Matter protests around racial injustices and inequalities, Black History Month, this year
will take on a broader significance. This is particularly in terms of this question: are we
truly committed to diversity and inclusion in our churches and all sectors of society (not
only in principle, but also in practice)?
Black History Month offers us a space and opportunity to reflect on the contributions of
black and brown skinned individuals who have been relegated, not just to the side-lines of
history, but forgotten through the ages. Thus, in my mind, it offers our church
communities the opportunity to be intentional in engaging in conversations, while
deepening our knowledge and understanding in these matters. In addition, as Christians,
we can pray for people of colour who are affected and/or impacted by the many appalling
injustices and inequalities in their lived experiences.
Another area that should garner our concern is the plight of refugees and asylum seekers.
In recent weeks and months, we have seen in the headlines migrants continuing to make
precarious journeys in a pandemic crises on flimsy boats. Many lives are lost, some are
saved, and most end up in that non-place limbo existence of immigration systems in
countries, which more often than not, are reluctant to welcome them in. Perhaps, this
month, we might be encouraged to pray for the thousands of asylum seekers and
refugees worldwide who have had to flee their homelands due to war, conflict and
persecution, to seek refugee in ‘safer’ nations.
With all this in mind, if we believe our churches should be representative of our wider
society, then we must keep asking ourselves: ‘Does what we see and experience reflect
the kingdom of God in all its fullness?’ Because if we are called to ‘go and make
disciples’ are we making disciples that only look like the many and not the few? As
followers of Christ we need to keep asking ourselves who is missing from our
worshipping communities and in our churches.
I am drawn to the Acts 8:26-40 passage in the bible which tells the story of Philip and the
Ethiopian eunuch. God leads Philip into an encounter with an Ethiopian, a powerful royal
official, on the road to Jerusalem. Philip shares the gospel message of Jesus with the
Ethiopian and the result of this, is that the Ethiopian believes and is baptised. You see, the
gospel message of grace is for all people, from all nations.
Interestingly, as I write this, I have also been reflecting a lot on Saint Moses, the Black,
whose feast day the Church marks on 28th August. He too was an Ethiopian, a desert
monk, born around 330. He is known to have had incredible stature, strength and
courage. A great man of faith, he was eventually chosen for the priesthood. Saint Moses,
the Black, reminds me that God calls us from all backgrounds and walks of lives to be a
part of his kingdom family.
We are living in complex and challenging times. However, God’s invitation to have the
courage to love as Christ did hasn’t changed. And I wonder if perhaps, this month, we
might ask God to enlarge our capacity for compassion and love for all people, and
particularly for people that may look different from ourselves. God can, and does, call us
to places we never expected and it’s incredible what transformation can happen in those
unexpected places. We live in a world where people come from diverse backgrounds,
representing many different nationalities and cultures, and my prayer is that as Maya
Angelou puts it: “We can learn to see each other and see ourselves in each other and
recognise that human beings are more alike than we are unalike.” May God give us the
hearts to learn, to grow and to be transformed by his incredible love.
Please be assured that the benefice community continues to pray and support our
communities in Gorse Hill and Ferndale. Should you require pastoral and prayer support
please do not hesitate to contact me.
Revd Dr Cathy Mark
Vicar, All Saints and St Barnabas