Monday 15 September 2008

Racial Justice — Slough & Reading

Racial Justice Sunday yesterday, which I celebrated in Reading and Slough. The morning parish mass at Christ Church, Reading, involved various members of the congregation using languages of their upbringing — a fair selection, including Tamil, Ndebele, Spanish, Shona, Hausa, Malayalam, Krio, Zulu, Mende, and Luganda. How many languages are there lurking in your congregation?

Among many highlights was a fabulous African anthem on the way in — I wish I'd had my digital recorder. Mervyn Williams has been working on the sound to produce a choir where the kids listen carefully to each other, as well as belting it out. Resulting intonation was just beautiful, but with all the vibrancy of African music, from a robed choir. Children from Christ Church School sang Siyahamba, too — but these are just snippets of a fabulous morning. The big learning for me was just how vibrant things can become in a congregation containing real cultural diversity, and enjoying it. Many thanks to Father David West, and a large supporting cast. I came out feeling there may be abit hope for the world, after all!

In the evening, our diocesan celebrations went Charismatic Evangelical at St Paul’s Slough. In the ten years he has been the Vicar, Mike Cotterell has opened a few windows around the place with his passion, commitment to growing a church around the Word, and openness to the Holy Spirit. This church’s Urdu house group has produced two ordinands in the past five years, the music group drew us in, loudly but supportively. After half a dozen visits, I’ve just about worked out the response when being dismissed in Urdu at the end — I’ll get there in the end, Gilbert! A couple of unexpected highlights made the experience for me —
  1. Saying the Lord’s prayer in our own languages, à la Lambeth, really works in this congregation — English was in there somewhere, under the radar, but not predominating. Just like Heaven. On which subject, it was good to remember in prayer Beverley Ruddock, who was so passionately committed to Racial Justice in our diocese.
  2. Janet Binns, who had put the service together for us, led us into the intercessions with this Video, from Opus Jones:

And the Message? Well, the Tower of Babel was one way of reaching heaven. Brick by brick, regular, regimented, logical... and wrong. God threw the babel project into confusion to save their souls. On the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit put eveything back together again, in embryo, but by exactly the opposite method. He could have got all the people speaking Hebrew, or conforming to the mega-organization back at the Temple, but he didn’t. Rather than that, he injected massive diversity into the disciples, getting the twelve to speak everyone else’s language, and they ended up becoing a new kind of temple.

The Spirit knew what he was doing; we’ve got to catch up with the logic of it, and enjoy living it.
  • Where is all this going to end? With every race and kindred and tribe and language gathered around him in glory.
  • When? On one level, at the end of the world, when everything is rolled up into eternity. On another, as soon as we let it happen.
We tried to do a bit of that yesterday in Slough and Reading, and the experience was glorious.


Anonymous said...

It is indeed lovely to hear the Lord's Prayer being said in people's own languages. How many have ever seen it said in British Sign Language, or Makaton, or expressed in pictures for those whose brains naturally prefer to 'speak' in visual images rather than words (e.g. many on the autistic spectrum?) All well worth seeking out.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thanks so much for bringing in this dimension. I've found work with our deaf churches really moving — so much more expressive — a whole person thing in the way all worship is meant to be, but doesn't always feel like. I want to blog some briliant work Ann Memmott has done on making churches more user-friendly for people on the autism/ asperger's spectrum, and we're going to do some engaged work together on that at our next area deans meeting. As often, the more we bring in additional dimensions around exceptional people's needs, the better it gets for everyone...

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