Food for Thought by Marcia Dixon MBE

WINDRUSH CELEBRATIONS: WHERE WAS THE CHURCH?

Last month, Britain celebrated Windrush Day on June 22 and commemorated the contribution of the Windrush Generation.

This year’s event marked the 75th anniversary of the arrival in Tilbury Docks of HMS Empire Windrush – the ship that brought the first contingent of Caribbean migrants who responded to the call to work in Britain’s labour-starved industry.

Amidst all the media coverage about the Windrush Generation, very little mention was made of the major role faith and the Church had played in their lives, and in the lives of their children and even their grandchildren. Neither did it mention how the Black Church provided people with a refuge from racism, and a place where they could find community and their intrinsic value could be celebrated and affirmed.

The Windrush Generation were people of faith. No ifs, no buts or maybes, the Church was intrinsic to their existence, and due to the high regard in which they held matters of faith, being of good character and being upright, even those who preferred to go to a blues party rather than attend a church service chose to get married in a church, had their children christened, and sent them to Sunday School.

I attended the Sunday school at my United Reformed Church one minute from my home and loved dressing up in my Sunday best to attend.

The establishment of the Black Pentecostal Church in Britain by those who migrated here is testament to the faith, belief and commitment to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The oldest Black Pentecostal denomination in the UK is COGIC, which was started in 1948. Other denominations founded by the Windrush Generation include the New Testament Church of God (founded 1953); the New Testament Assembly (founded 1961); the Bethel United Church of Jesus Christ Apostolic (founded 1956); Assemblies of the First-Born (founded 1961); Bibleway Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ (founded 1957) and many more.

I believe it’s so necessary for the role of the Church in the lives of the Windrush Generation to be mentioned because it played such a crucial role in their lives, as well as those of the second generation like me.

Many of our lives have been transformed by the preaching of the Gospel, and the teaching by our church leaders shaped our thinking, our approach to life, behaviour, attitudes, educational and professional achievements, and so much more.

Those of us who got saved in our youth look back and shake our heads at some of those strict church rules about how we should dress and behave, and the large amount of time we spent attending church services and events. They were good times, but conversely there are some who had the misfortune to experience the pain and shame of being disciplined by the church, especially if they got pregnant outside of marriage.

One thing I do know is that if many more of the Windrush Generation were alive today to see how their lives and values were being celebrated, they would be giving God the highest praise, and thanking Him for elevating them. And I’m sure one of the Scriptures they would quote is James 4:10 — ‘Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.’ 

IT’S OK TO LAMENT

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I think the messages that are preached in our churches are so focused on being upbeat, positive, full of faith that people don’t feel free to share their life regrets, disappointments or doubts.

I was sharing this with an Anglican vicar, and they said I felt like this because there’s very little teaching in our churches about the ‘gospel of lament’. What’s that, you might ask — and rightly so, because I hadn’t heard of it either!

Rob Brockman, writing on www.thegospelcoalition.org, explains it perfectly. He writes,

Lament is a form of praise and prayer with the intent of drawing close to God in times of great suffering and pain.

Approximately 65 of the Psalms are psalms of lament. And there’s a whole book in the Bible that is dedicated to lament: the book of Lamentations, written by Jeremiah, known as the weeping prophet. It’s this book that inspired the well-known hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness.

It’s worth noting that lament is not a pointless exercise. It allows a believer to share their pain, disappointment and regrets to God, knowing that He hears our cry and understands our prayer, whilst also recognising His promises are true and His purposes will prevail.

I believe it’s time for our church leaders to speak more openly about lament in sermons and study the subject in Bible classes, so that (i) people feel freer to talk about the negative aspects of their lives, and (ii) to help Christians recognise that pain and disappointment are a normal part of life, and that if they give that pain and disappointment to God, He will provide the comfort they need. 

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