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Synod Church & Society / Racial Justice Advocate Event

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Synod Church & Society / Racial Justice Advocate Event

Report & Reflections from Saturday 24th September 2022.

Posted on Friday, November 4, 2022

OPENING WORSHIP was led by Rev Margaret Ali

Using personal experiences and Bible references, Margaret reminded us all of how God created us in his own image, making us one with Him and how Jesus himself recognised prejudice and by his actions, broke down barriers that people had created. He also preached against people’s judgments of each other. We are all one in Christ’s eyes and we should all give voice to this and put it into action.

WELCOME + INTRODUCTION – Sandra Ackroyd

Sandra introduced the programme and the presenters for the day. It was good to refer back to a theological reflection paper found in the last Church and Society Newsletter which was circulated through the Synod weekly news round in the late Spring, featuring the topics of becoming an Eco church and world and working towards becoming an anti-racist church and society. Rev Nancy Babarinde was the writer of this article and she reflected on the inter-connection between these 2 big challenges.

PASSAGE THROUGH LOCKDOWN AND THE WAY FORWARD/FOOD + FUEL POVERTY

FranSpence who was our first presenter, gave an update on how Hertford and District Foodbank coped through lockdown and how it has affected and directed its on-going operation. This led to discussion about food and fuel poverty which as we know, increasing numbers of people are experiencing in our society. The aim of Trussell Trust is to bring about the end of dependency on foodbanks, by lobbying for a fairer living wage and adequate benefits and to encourage more client motivation and participation.

GROWING LEADERSHIP AMONGST YOUNG ADULTS, ESPECIALLY OF BLACK AND MINORITY ETHNIC CONTEXTS.

We then heard from Sheliesa Stewart who is The Children and Family worker for Grange Park URC. She took us through her journey to be coming a part-time voluntary youth leader at High Cross URC, from involvement with junior church to her position in leadership now, as a paid children’s worker at Grange Park URC. She explained how she battled with self-doubt and gained self-confidence and self -awareness of her own abilities and qualities. She explained how this in turn had enabled her to recognise and encourage young people and future leaders to use their talents and skills, in volunteering roles within the church and other places. We discussed how we could help young people in our churches. Many suggestions were made, including:

  • Involving younger people in using their technology skills and other skills in the life of the church > Turning perceived weaknesses into strengths
  • Continuing to mentor and pray for young people

PALESTINE and ISRAEL- CONTEXT and CHALLENGES Rev Maggie Hindley

Maggie made an interesting comparison and drew a parallel to the plight of the Palestinians in Israel to that in South Africa when going through Apartheid. She had recently joined the ‘’Christian Peace Makers in Hebron and experienced the inequality, oppression, humiliation and persecution of the Palestinians, especially students. With her British passport, acting like a magic wand, it was made very clear how fortunate she was. Maggie shared several stories of those she had met and their real-life experiences of the threats and dangers they live with every day. She said how we must hope for change in the future which will involve the world knowing the truth of what is happening in this region and how difficult it is for Palestinian people to move around or out of their situation. We pray that this occupation will end. We are encouraged to speak out against what is happening there.

Resources to help us become more informed about the situation include: ‘Camden Exchange Visits’, ‘Commitment for Life ‘, Iona, Palestine Story ‘

Maggie then shared this Hebron Prayer: (See below). After lunch we broke into 3 groups to discuss the morning’s topics with some prepared questions from the presenters.

ACTIONS ARISING

  1. a) Palestine: a. Hilary from Trinity URC St. Albans made available a model letter which could help people planning to write to their MPs about the situation, including stating a protest about our Prime Minister (that was , on the 24/9/22), planning to move the British Consulate from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Many church leaders have spoken out about this possible action which could be seen as insulting and problematic to the Palestinian people
    b) Trinity URC St. Albans are holding an evening for Palestine on Saturday19th November, and all are asked to share and advertise the event
  2. Developing Youth Leadership: We were encouraged to create more opportunities for volunteering and leadership in our churches amongst younger people. What Sheliesa is doing as part of her work at Grange Park is directly related to the General Assembly Resolution referring to Representation. As we reflect on developing leadership amongst young adults of black and minority ethnic backgrounds for all levels of the church, it is essential to start within the local church where confidence can start to grow.
  3. Food /fuel banks: We were made aware of a shift in emphasis for those running food/fuel banks. Hertford URC are initiating a ‘HELPING HUB ‘in the town to help bring about the end of dependency on food banks, by lobbying MPs for fairer living wages ,adequate benefits and encouraging more client participation in this process as mentioned earlier.
  4. Lorraine, our Synod CYDO participated in the day. She had many resources and information about different opportunities available to children and young people in the URC. She Asked us to involve any children and young people who use our church premises, for whatever reason , and to pray for them.
  5. We thank Carol Cooper for compiling a list of important Church and Society happenings and dates across the board, in the next few months. This is a useful resource paper for us to refer to.
  6. We also distributed a resource paper identifying books and resource material helpful to us all as we learn to be an Anti- racist and all-inclusive church. This was compiled by the RJA co-ordinators of Southern Synod, Sharon Henriquez and Thames North, Sandra Ackroyd. The most recent ecumenical book is ‘Race to Justice’ – Richard Reddie . The journey of racial justice activity (1995- 2020) in the URC can be found in chapter 6 which Sandra was invited to write.

A REQUEST

We concluded the day, requesting all of us to be involved with our churches, highlighting church and Society issues, passions and information enabling the sharing of ideas, resources and challenges. Also, we have heard how the General Assembly of 2022 is challenging us to take affirmative action towards becoming an anti-racist church. As synods and local churches, we need to work on strategies of implementing the principles suggested by the General Assembly resolutions relating to the' Legacies of Transatlantic Slavery’. This requires a commitment to action and prayer.

We closed with this MEDITATION ‘WITHIN and WITHOUT’

Loving God
Come to us this day
Keep love within and fear without
Keep peace within, unhelpful intentions out
Generous God
Embrace us with your saving presence
Keep wholeness in and dis-ease out
Keep care within and selfishness out
Sustaining God
Circle us with your Spirit
Keep truth within and injustice out
Keep acceptance in and prejudice out
Ocean of Love
We offer up the burdens and hopes of this day
Trusting in your mercy and grace
Raise us up to ever new life
In the name of the Rising-Up One, we pray AMEN (Michael N Jagessar)

Picture 1

A Prayer for Hebron

This prayer was written by the first foreigner to join the team in Al Khalil since Covid, on leaving.

So, farewell for now, beautiful Hebron.
I am thankful for the hills that surround you,
for your ancient stone houses and your limestone streets,
for the Old Souk,
for the tomb of the Patriarchs,
for the choruses of Calls to Prayer,
for your blown glass and ceramics and leatherwork and keffiyas
and the craftspeople who design and make and sell these lovely things;
for your old, old story,
for giving us Abraham,
father of faith, of adventure in old age,
and of disputatiousness with the Divine.
I am thankful for your people -
longsuffering, hospitable, adaptable, courageous, angry -
and for their beautiful resistance to oppression.

I regret
my collusion, sometimes, with the powers that maintain your oppression,
my wish, sometimes, to turn from your suffering,
my reluctance, sometimes, to speak out when others blame the victim,
my unconscious conviction
that I know best, that I am best;
my weariness with the struggle
to bear witness to the injustice
that squeezes the life out of your people, day in and day out.
I regret, and I ask your forgiveness.

Beautiful Al Khalil,
I long for your freedom and your peace.
May the dreams of your children -
that they may walk your streets freely,
that they may be safe from bullets and tear gas,
searches and detention,
that they may build fine schools and hospitals,
and prosper like citizens of any other city -
may these dreams be realised in their lifetimes
or – better - in mine.

City of Beautiful Resistance,
City of Faith,
may your light shine.

I bless you from the depths of my being.

Picture 1 2022 11 09 142025 mgmf

Please pray for Al Khalil’s CPT team of young Palestinians as they return from training in Jordan to the realities of school patrols, checkpoints and tear gas.

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