The Black History Month commemorative service on 15th October 2023 at Liverpool Cathedral introduced the work of racial justice in Liverpool Diocese.
Jennie Taylor, Racial Justice officer, launched the Diocese and Cathedral Racial Justice Strategy ‘From Repentance to Repair’ during her sermon. You can read it below.
Launch of the Racial Justice Strategy for Liverpool Diocese and Cathedral Commemorative Service for Black History Month 15th October 2023
Thank you for inviting me to speak today as part of this commemorative service for Black History Month.
In 2022 NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, a giant infrared instrument, a million miles from Earth, took its first images revealing in unprecedented detailed a new perspective of the cosmos. Its breathtaking images include a now-iconic view of the Carina Nebula and a striking picture of Neptune’s rings.
The Carina Nebula is approximately half a million years old. It’s been there for our entire lifetime and the lifetimes of the generations before us, but we couldn't see it. We needed a new perspective. A way of looking at the universe, bringing light into the darkest places so that we could see what was there all along.
Black History month and the ongoing work of racial justice is not unlike the work of the James Webb Space Telescope, it is about shining light into dark places and uncovering what is there. In Luke 12 v 2 Jesus speaks to his disciples saying, ‘Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.’
For those of us who are detrimentally affected by racism that is our hope. That those parts of our shared Christian history that have been overlooked and silenced will be brough into the light. That others from across our global community will join with us in Black History Month and throughout all the years to come to celebrate with us the impact of Black Christians on our shared life. This year Black History Month is celebrating our sisters, in recognition of their leadership, talent and impact.
Celebrating our sisters is one of the many ways we can contribute to Black History month as we acknowledge the stories that have gone untold and overlooked. As we join others across the UK in celebrating Black women who have greatly impacted our shared life of faith, we aim to make what was whispered behind closed doors, proclaimed from the housetops.
We celebrate the Rev Dr Kate Coleman is recognised as one of the top 20 influential Black Christian women leaders in the UK. She was the first Black woman to become an accredited Baptist minister and went on to become the first Black woman president of the Baptist Union.
The Right Rev Dr Esme Beswick MBE, Founder and President of the Joint Council of Churches for All Nations. She was the first Black woman to hold the office of President of Churches Together in England.
The Bishop Rose Hudson-Wilkin, MBE, CD, KHE the first Black woman Bishop in the Church of England. She has also served chaplain to the late Queen Elizabeth II and chaplain to the speaker of the House of Commons.
There is so much of our shared history to celebrate, and there is hope for our future together.
There are times when it can be challenging to uncover the truth. We won’t always find things that we are proud of. As a church in the Liverpool Diocese we know that our history is connected to and shaped by the trade in enslaved Africans. We know that individuals, families and communities have at times past, and present been marginalised by racially motivated practices in the church. We need courage, to face the truth and courage to learn from it.
St. Augustine of Hippo, a philosopher and theologian of Berber descent is credited with this saying “Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”
It is that anger at the way things are and the courage to see that they do not remain so that has led us as a Diocese to adopt a racial justice strategy ‘From Repentance to Repair’. This strategy is the continuation of our commitment to the fourth mark of mission: to seek to transform the unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation. Seeking racial justice within our church and school communities is not a reaction to the society we live in but a response to the gospel of Jesus Christ at work in us.
Our courageous response is to become a racially just church, one that works towards reconciliation between all people. It requires us to approach one another with a sense of curiosity. Open to sharing and listening to each other's experiences. It requires us to approach one another with humility, ready to learn about ourselves and others.
From Repentance to Repair solidifies the actions that we have already begun across the churches in the Diocese, our schools and Cathedral and details new ways for us to engage in our communities, learn and heal from our past, and build a future together.
This strategy aims to change the culture in this Diocese, Cathedral and in our schools so that we become an Anti-Racist Diocese.
An Anti-Racist Diocese is one that:
Educates people to understand what racism is and how it has evolved both within society and in our specific culture
Empowers people of all ethnicities to become aware of the racist ideas we hold and work to move beyond them
Evaluates its policies, procedures, behaviours and actions to identify and remove racist practices and support new policies that promote equality for all.
We recognise that we are all learners, we will face challenges along the way, but we are committed to change. We will work together, to be a community that is humble, merciful and just. We know that when one person receives justice, justice increases.
As we launch our racial justice strategy today, we will continue to bring light into the dark places within us and among us. Committing to be a church that shares the good news of the gospel with people everywhere, that we might see a glimpse of God’s Kingdom, where all people are welcomed and included.
Jennie Taylor, Racial Justice Officer for Liverpool Diocese and Cathedral