‘Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.’ Hebrews 13:1-2
This Thursday will mark the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the passengers of the Empire Windrush to the UK, and a number of dioceses are hosting bishops from the Church in the Province of the West Indies.
As we celebrate the diversity of our cultural landscape and all the good which has grown across communities, it is also important that we lament the hostility and lack of welcome experienced by so many of those adults and children from the Caribbean, not least in the Church of England, as they arrived in Britain having responded to an invitation to come and offer their skills as part of the recovery from World War II. I have continued to be shocked over the years as I have heard stories of people’s experiences of racism, not only going back many years but also in the present.
It is good and right that this weekend there will be a National Service of Thanksgiving at Southwark Cathedral to “celebrate the Windrush generation’s profound contributions, and reaffirm our commitment to a shared society where all people can flourish.” (Dionne Gravesande, Chair of the Windrush 75 planning committee).
This week is also Refugee Week, and the arrival of people from different countries remains a topical issue, not least as the ‘Illegal Migration bill’ makes its way through parliament, raising many questions, thoughts and emotions. Yet it is important that as we address some of the complex issues, that we do so with the desire for all people to flourish across the world. We need to be increasingly committed to understanding that we are all part of one world with many global challenges, and we need to ask in what ways our words and actions contribute to both the problems and the solutions.
On that note, in this diocese I continue to celebrate the way many individuals and communities have welcomed and supported people from the Ukraine. Furthermore, some of the support which is being offered to refugees and asylum seekers within communities has been inspiring. Yet none of this is ever all one-way as if there are providers and beneficiaries.
Whether people arrive in a country as a result of a request and invitation; or as part of a scheme in a situation of crisis as with Ukraine and Afghanistan; or are present in a country as a refugee or asylum seeker, there are numerous stories, not least in this diocese, of mutuality in giving, learning and support. As people have given of themselves to one another in a spirit of ‘with’ and a recognition of shared humanity the ‘they’ has become ‘we’, with profound transformation taking place, not least within worshipping communities.
As we walk through this week, may we celebrate and give thanks for what continues to be planted, watered and grown through the ‘with’ of cultural diversity, and may we all continue to ask questions about inclusion and exclusion in our commitment to be ‘advocates for flourishing’.
With my thanks and prayers,