Maintaining a strong sense of self
In June, there is going to be a major national focus on the Windrush Generation – on those men and women from the Caribbean who answered the call from the British government to come and work in their labour-starved industries between the late 1940s and 1960s.
My parents were part of the Windrush Generation and, since becoming a Christian as a teenager, I have been a member of the Pentecostal church movement – a movement started by the Windrush Generation, often in response to the racism they experienced in the wider Church.
One of the most important things we can learn from that generation is their resilience and the values they passed on. And if no one else has learnt from them, I definitely have.
We don’t realise how brave and adventurous that generation were, to leave behind the familiar and travel to a country totally different with regards to the culture, their race, societal norms and weather!!!
They encountered racism first hand; had to do menial low-paid jobs whilst raising their families, and deal with their own personal issues, whether it was separation from their children, domestic violence, abuse of their children, the list goes on. However, in spite of this, they maintained a strong sense of self and some important values they passed onto people like myself, the second generation.
These values included the following:
• Faith in God and love for the Church
• Loving one’s family
• Giving a helping hand to people in need
• Respect for self and others
• Understanding the value of hard work
• Valuing the importance of education
• Being of good character
• Abhorring lying, stealing and cheating
• Not bringing shame on oneself and family due to bad behaviour
These values put the Windrush in good stead and, coupled with their faith and strength of character, they were empowered and enabled to survive the harshness of living in the UK.
With many of them now growing old, or going home to be with the Lord, it’s left to us, their descendants, to continue the legacy of values they leave behind, as we build our lives. Make no bones about it, living by these values helps bring about success.
The Church in particular, currently the foremost institution within the Black community, owes a great debt to the Windrush Generation, because were it not for their blood, sweat, tears and money, we wouldn’t have a Black Church movement at all.
ESTHERS AND DEBORAHS, RISE UP!
Our churches are filled with women – Spirit-filled, caring, intelligent, high-achieving and aspirational women, who desire to impact society.
They come from all walks of life, and occupy a variety roles: wife, mother, single woman, career woman, volunteer, prayer warrior – the list goes on and on.
Like the biblical characters of Queen Esther and Judge Deborah, modern Christian women can and should play their part in responding to social crises and bringing their influence to bear to bring about change.
Queen Esther saved her nation by imploring the king, her husband, to change laws that were instigated to bring about the demise of the Jewish people. Deborah, working alongside Barak, took the lead, and led Israel’s army to victory against enemy forces.
Both these examples highlight what can happen, when women rise up to societal challenges and implement strategies in order to bring about change.
Let’s be more strategic about how that female energy and passion are utilised. Our prayers should not just be about ourselves and our families, but for the wider community, praying into the various issues we face regarding relationships, children, injustice and racism.
Our energy can also be channelled into those spheres of society that need to experience the transformative power of Christian influence – wherever that may be.
I would challenge Christian women to follow Queen Esther’s example and, when they see injustice or mistreatment of a community, to be willing to lift their heads above the parapet and make a difference, and that they would be brave enough like Deborah the Judge and wage war against those issues that cause injustice or seek to destroy those who want to live out God’s purposes.
Congregations must be more politically engaged
Over the past few months, I’ve heard lots of calls for the Church – ie. church leaders – to be more political. In years gone by, I would have agreed with such statements, but not anymore.
Most Black church leaders see themselves first and foremost as men and women called by God to preach the Gospel and make disciples, as directed by Christ in Matthew 28:30. A few have ventured into the political square, but it remains a few.
Instead of trying to get church leaders to be something they are not, the Black community would be better served politically if church leaders encouraged their congregations to be involved in politics, whether by praying for political leaders and the government; joining a political party; standing for public office, or getting involved in campaigns against injustice or those who promote equality. It would make sense for churches to invite Black people involved in politics to speak to their congregations on poignant issues during a Sunday morning service.
Britain is not America, so if individuals expect Black British church leaders to behave politically like their American counterparts, they will be deeply disappointed.