September is nearly over and we will soon be moving into October with that increasing sense of autumnal change all around us.
For many years October has been marked out as Black History Month, during which black contributions to British society are highlighted and celebrated.
There are specific opportunities to hear stories and insights and to look through a different lens not only as we promote and celebrate racial diversity and culture but also as we shine a light on racial justice. Yet, the risk is that it becomes for ‘one month only’ without there being any long and deep change in our worship and lives throughout the different seasons of the year.
Likewise, this is not simply a focus for those churches and communities where obvious racial diversity exists. This is about us all and what it means to be the Body of Christ, recognising that diversity, prejudice, imbalance of power and injustice are all present within the world in which we live and that includes the Church of which we are part.
To this end, I want to commend the worship resources which have been developed and I also want to highlight the film ‘After the Flood: The Church, Slavery and Reconciliation’. This shows the impact of the Church’s involvement with the slave trade, and encourages reflection and discussions rooted in scripture.
I hope the resources, film and the days designated Black History Month will help us, in all our varied diversity of age, background, accent and colour, to enter more deeply into undefended lament coupled with hope. I pray that we will have the courage and confidence to share and explore our own stories and histories in fresh ways as individuals, worshipping communities, schools and chaplaincies, each set within different contexts which hold their own histories which might be looked at through a different lens. In places of celebration as well as repentance, may we be challenged, encouraged and changed.
The autumn is always a time for licensing new clergy, and over the past two weeks I have licensed two new school chaplains and five incumbents. In the service for parish incumbents there is a final symbolic act when the hand of the cleric is placed on the door of the church building as they are reminded that they are ‘called to help the people who are refreshed in these places by their worship and fellowship to live out their faith in these communities, so that God’s love may be known’. There is then the opportunity for the people gathered to say, ‘Together, by God’s grace, we will be Christ’s people at work in the world’. The new incumbent then opens wide the door and, turning to the congregation, says, ‘Go in the power of Christ’ and everyone responds, ‘We have a gospel to proclaim’.
May we embody those words in ever deeper ways in the light of fresh looking and listening enabled by Black History Month.
‘ Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.’ Romans 12:2
With my thanks and prayers as ever.