If you were with us on Sunday you would have heard the interview I did with Shari Barrrett, our worship pastor, something which will hopefully will be the beginning of a conversation about race for many of us in our community. This followed on from the pre-meeting chat Catrina and I had with Pelumi and Rachel Aworinde the Sunday before, and tied in with the pre-meeting chats we had this Sunday with Darlington Nwodo and Daniele Siedu. If you missed any of those interviews I'd strongly encourage you to watch them by clicking on the links. None of them make easy listening but it is so important that we hear these voices, especially those of us who are white and want to understand better what racism looks like in our own nation and the nations around the world.
I want to encourage us as a church community to have the courage to initiate these sorts of conversations with people from a different ethnic background to our own. I realise that in the past I've shied away from having those conversations, afraid of saying the wrong thing or causing offence. However, I now realise how much poorer I am because of that. I've been shocked as I've sat down with friends from different ethnic minorities, in some cases with people I've known for years, not only to hear their stories of race based hatred and discrimination but also to realise that I had no idea that many of these things are still going on today.
I also recommended a couple of books which I want to encourage everyone in our community to read.
The first is Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. Reni is a London based journalist who writes with brutal honesty about race and racism in the UK. Please get it, read it and discuss it with others.
The second book is We Need to Talk About Race by Ben Lindsay. Ben is black but leads a white majority church in South East London. His book is very helpful in exposing some of the structural issues in white majority churches which can make it hard for black people (and those from other ethnic minorities) to flourish.
Finally to say I finished my sermon yesterday with a poem, which for me summarised some of what I think God is up to in this moment (the poem is by a Poet called Leslie Dwight). We are seeing a shaking in our nation with in short succession Brexit, Extinction Rebellion, Covid-19 and now the murder of George Floyd. We are at a unique moment in history where God is shaking our certainties, revealing fault lines in our society, highlighting injustice and calling us to live a different way. Let us be the people who recognise God at work in it all, have the uncomfortable conversations, speak prophetically, act courageously and be God's agents for change in the world.