CLERGY TEAM

   

Rector  


The Revd.

Matthew J Hughes

01689 856931

 jmath@btinternet.com

Associate Rector   


The Revd.
Stephen Broadie
 01689 852843
revstephenbroadie@
gmail.com

Assistant Priest  


The Revd.

Bill Mullenger

020 8462 9624
wsmullenger@
idnetfreemail.co.uk

 

July Leader

 On the 2nd June 2020 the Archbishops of Canterbury and York issued a joint statement, in which they said that ‘God’s justice and love for all creation demands that this evil is properly confronted and tackled. Let us be clear: racism is an affront to God. It is born out of ignorance, and must be eradicated.' The 'evil' they were referring to was the evil of racism, and their statement came in the wake of an event that had shocked the world. That event was the tragic death of George Floyd, a 46 year old black man, in Minnesota, USA, on the 25th May. Disturbing video footage released shortly after the event had shown Floyd being detained by four police officers, and having pressure applied to his neck by one of the officers for around nine minutes. Floyd died shortly after in police custody.

Although other stories of police brutality have appeared in the media in recent years, this story has struck a particular chord with people around the world, with demonstrations following in Britain, Spain, Nigeria and many other nations. Writing in the Guardian at the beginning of June, the novelist Ben Okri described how the words 'I can't breathe', which Floyd could be heard saying in that video, had such a powerful effect on people. He linked that phrase to our current fears about the Coronavirus pandemic. 'The phrase linked the Coronavirus with the ubiquitous and implacable nature of institutional racism …"I can't breathe" suddenly equates racism with the deprivation of air, which is what it always was.’*

Personally, it has taken me a while to process what is happening. My mother was South Korean, and I grew up in Tunbridge Wells, which was not a very multi-cultural or diverse environment at the time. I have found myself in these last two weeks talking with friends and family about different experiences of racism, and how attitudes were different in the 1980s and 1990s. As I reflect on recent events, I find myself thinking about Richard Foster's description of Jesus' work on the cross. It is a quote I have often returned to, where Foster writes that 'Jesus knew that by his vicarious suffering he could actually absorb all the evil of humanity and so heal it, forgive it, redeem it.' In his suffering on the cross Jesus took all the suffering of humanity, including the suffering of someone whose neck has been crushed by another man's knee for nine minutes. Jesus absorbed within himself on the cross the human capacity to objectify another human, to see them as less than human. Jesus experienced this himself as he was subjected to torture and humiliation, jeered by the very crowds who had praised him only a week earlier.

In Ephesians 2:14, St Paul writes that 'he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.' He is writing to two different groups of people – Jews and Gentiles – and demonstrating how the work of the cross was not just to reconcile God and humanity, but to reconcile different ethnic groups. Christ came to do a work of reconciliation between us and God, however true reconciliation means also being reconciled to each other, whatever our background or ethnicity. It is not clear at the moment how our national government, local government, or those working in the justice system and education will respond to the events of May 25th. However, I do believe that as Christians we have something to contribute to this discussion. I believe that major church leaders, such as our Archbishops, have been right to speak out about this incident. The Christian gospel challenges us to see Christ in our fellow human beings, whatever their situation or background.

*'Why 'I can't breathe' has echoed around the world", Ben Okri, Guardian, 2nd June 2020

Stephen