Church of England Diocese of Guildford Dunsfold


20 Apr 2021, 4:15 p.m.
Church_news Easter

Stephen Lawrence, an 18-year-old black British teenager, was murdered on the 22<sup>nd</sup> April 1993, in a racially motivated attack in Eltham, Southeast London, about half a mile from where I lived at the time. The fallout from the investigation that followed had far reaching consequences, leading to calls of ‘institutional racism’ and for systemic changes to policing.

Uncomfortable though it may be, in February last year, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, told General Synod that there was ‘no doubt’ that the Church of England ‘was still deeply institutionally racist’; and Synod members voted to ‘stamp out conscious or unconscious racism’ from within. This led to the creation of the Anti-Racism Taskforce to ‘carry out preparatory work ahead of the launch of the Archbishops’ Commission to address racism in the Church of England’. Their report is due to be published on Thursday April 22<sup>nd</sup>, which incidentally, is also the launch of Stephen Lawrence Day.

After some years of working with the diocese concerning racial matters, I am delighted to say that the Racial Justice Focus Group (RJFG) has been set up in our diocese by the Bishops. This group, which has the backing of Bishop’s Council, is chaired by Bishop Jo. Its overall aim is to ‘<strong>promote greater racial diversity within the Diocese of Guildford and its leadership; and to ensure that people from all racial backgrounds are enabled to fulfil their potential within the Body of Christ’. </strong>Currently, two emerging strands of the group’s work include: creating a database to help to bring to light any aspects of racism in our processes and practices; and identifying and naming the realities and challenges of racial discrimination in our diocese. You can read more on the group here.

Reflecting on the Gospel for Sunday, Jesus got alongside his disciples, who were afraid, and invited them to touch the wounds of his crucifixion and see that he is real (Luke 24.39). I would like to invite you to come alongside us, reach out and touch the wounds of racism and see that they are real; and fulfil Jesus’ prayer of unity that all his people might be one; and ‘that the Church, would be united in Christ and united with one another so that the world may believe in Him’ (John 17.21).

As I close, I leave you with this prayer, which was written by the RJFG for this year’s Chrism Service:

Father of all creation
we humble ourselves before you.
We come as we are, united by your cross,
as a people of diversity and difference.
Different cultures, different ways, 
different names, different colour,
different strengths, different gifts:
We come as one in Christ.
We are your people, and you are our God.
Help us to follow your example, 
and reach out to others as you have reached out to us;
and teach us to love one another as you have loved us.
This we ask in Jesus’ name.