Weekly Reflection - Black History Month

1 October 2021

Canon Peter

“The Sunday mornings of my life fill the head and the heart.”

I love this quotation by Emilie Townes[1] because it challenges me to make the most of our Sunday mornings. Drawing on the richness of her experience growing up in black majority churches she articulates something of the fullness of life that Jesus said he’d come to bring. As a black womanist theologian, her writings open up spirituality as a social witness; her experience of God is something that empowers social change and a call for justice. Her lived-experience as a black woman and a Christian challenges me to go deeper in my faith and seek a richer encounter with God.

Wakefield Cathedral is using October to mark Black History Month with a special display in the cathedral that highlights the contribution of five prominent Black Christians. The five people we have highlighted allowed God to fill their head and heart in such a way that has brought social change and a louder cry for justice to be heard from the church in our nation.

Sadly, the church in the UK has too often let its whiteness stifle the voice and experience of people of colour. Bishop Rose Hudson Wilkin (the first black woman bishop in the Church of England) has said, “I think what you see is whiteness presented as normal, and if that is presented as normal then it means that I am not normal, you are not normal. We’re outside the frame of normality.”[2] As a cathedral we aspire to be inclusive and yet are we in danger of presenting whiteness as normal and inadvertently denying the diversity and vibrancy that God intends for his family?

There are things we can all do to dismantle whiteness and breathe new life into the church, maybe this year’s Black History Month can be a time to commit to make those changes? Simple steps like: conversations, hospitality, reading about the lived experience of others can all help. Over the coming months we are going to develop our “International Welcome” and see if we can be more intentional in creating space, support and welcome for people from other cultures – speak to me or Sadegh if you’d like to know more.

[1] Emilie Townes is an American Christian social ethicist and theologian. She was the first African-American woman to be elected president of the American Academy of Religion.

[2] Quoted from Revd. Azariah France-Williams book on Institutional Racism in the Church of England, ‘Ghost Ship’ (SCM Press 2020)

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