Even as our eyes & opinions were focussed on our national news which was politically charged, George Floyd was murdered on 25th May in Minneapolis. #Icantbreathe became a slogan which drew attention to police brutality, specifically against People of Colour in the USA.
Attention swung from the Rose Garden in Downing Street to the grieving family of George Floyd who died from asphyxiation due to the arresting officer’s knee being hard against his neck, even as he protested that ‘I can’t breathe’. George’s death was witnessed by onlookers and the outcry against the disregard for his life gained momentum as his death was added to many other black lives that have been ended by police in the USA.
Protests across the USA have gained tens of thousands of participants as, in desperation and despair, people took to the streets to share anger and outrage for this act of racism. There have been some people who have looked on critically and who have made dismissive comment on seeing the desperation of the protestors. These protestors who have been filled with rage that human life should be so casually cast aside, their voices unheard or ignored for so long that they have looted areas. This deflection from the main issue is a red herring. The focus should be on the racism that still has dominance in many people who choose to assert their white privilege to nullify the human rights of people of colour. It could be easy to dismiss the riots as being ‘about America’… so let’s take a look closer to home…
The suppression by us of naming racism where we see it in Norwich Methodist Churches will only lead to ignorance and a further perpetuation of thoughts and expressions which ‘we’ve always used.’ Suppression of calling out racist attitudes and thought patterns continue to allow a white privilege to hold power. Without naming racism where we see it, we teach bad attitudes to our children and grandchildren and so we allow racism, however casual, to persist.
You all know people whom racism affects on a daily basis: there are members of our Ministry Team who regularly have to choose how to respond to comments and attitudes that demonstrate someone approaching them as ‘lesser’ because of their skin colour.
No one should be told in hushed tones on arriving for worship, “just to warn you, our minister is black.”
No one’s Calling should be diminished for the colour of their skin.
No one should sit in a meeting and be talked over because they don’t fit a social stereotype of ‘which people should be listened to’.
No one should be pulled over when driving according to the law, simply for being black. Members of our Bowthorpe Road Church encountered avoidance and name-calling as the COVID-19 coronavirus began to spread.
The systemic suppression of naming racism in our churches and society must stop. The mean-spirited emails, the casual comments about colour and ‘home’ are not acceptable.
They all must stop.
#Icantbreathe was a physical response to a knee on George Floyd’s neck… George’s cries as he fought for breath were ignored. Here, in Norwich, we do not ignore it when black ministers and members of our congregations are referred to as ‘they’. Here, we promote love and diversity and celebrate difference; learning from one another and celebrating the perspectives and colour we each bring.
Here, we declare #blacklivesmatter loudly from our churches, because it needs to be affirmed in a society which largely takes for granted the white privilege we have grown up within.
Here, In Norwich Circuit, we will place banners & posters outside our churches to remind our local BAME people that God’s love doesn’t discriminate due to skin colour and neither do we. We receive the words from Paul as he wrote to the Galatians: “We are all one in Christ Jesus” (3:28 The Passion Translation).
We pay attention to Revd Martin Luther King Jr’s words in 1963 - now some 57 years later - “Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children… I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they are not judged by the colour of their skin.”
That time is still now. That dream is yet to be a right, both in the USA and in the UK.
Where justice is yet to be a reality, the oppression of injustice foments. This is not a ‘black people only’ issue, it is about humanity - showing and sharing our common inheritance as children of Creator God, and our unity in Christ.
We don’t want people to have to tolerate racism. We don’t want another generation to grow up in fear of being arrested for the colour of their skin - stopped and searched because they fit a stereotype. We are brothers and sisters of Jesus- ones who share his body and his blood, born of the Spirit to live a new life in Christ.
The world is angry. People are hurting for many reasons.
The Norwich Circuit staff team want to assure you of their ongoing love and care for each of you. Against suggestions that this is a period of ‘rest’ for our ministry team, may I gently let you know that food banks are being resourced, pastoral care is being given, funerals are being conducted, Bible Studies and prayer meetings are happening. We are ensuring that your souls are nourished with quality teaching, preaching and fellowship, freshly reinvented each week.
Your ministers are the most kind and loving I have ever had the privilege of working alongside. They care.
They serve and bless you out of a deep sense of calling and love for you in Jesus Christ.
Norwich Circuit is a lovely and good place to be. Your lives matter. Our lives matter. And because the world needs to be reminded: #blacklivesmatter.
If you are personally affected by any of the issues in this letter, please contact me through the contact card on my website for support.
Loving God, Father of all; we pray for peace in your world. Peace that comes from being right with you, where love and justice reign and the Salvation of God is known far and wide. And right now, we pray for those people whose lives are full of fear. Fear to live in the world as we see it today. Fear for their children. Fear for their own life and health. May your Kingdom come.We ask for comfort for all who mourn. We pray for justice for those whose lives have been cut short by violent means. Pour out your power afresh upon your ministers and all who serve in Your Name. May they know the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Amen