Listening for a Change
Listening for a Change
We want to grow, as All Saints, in our ability and confidence to call and stamp out racism in our church and promote equality and diversity. We're on this journey as a family, it won't be a quick fix and it needs all of us to get involved. We'll try to keep you up to date with all that's going on so read on below or jump to the section you need.
April - suggested viewing -BBC Panorama: Is the Church Racist?
A verse which has spoken to us recently is “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6 NIV
With that in mind, we wanted to let you know about an upcoming episode of Panorama on Monday night, BBC1, 7.35pm, asking “Is the church racist?” which may be challenging to watch, and widely discussed. We’ll be prayerfully watching this.
There is also the opportunity to join an online panel discussion straight afterwards. One of the vicars sharing their story on Panorama is inviting participation. The panel will consider the nature of racism in the church, what needs to change, and how the church can take a lead on anti-racism in Britain.
Dr. Elizabeth Henry will be on the discussion panel and was the former National Adviser for Minority-Ethnic Anglican Concerns. You can sign up via this link:
Lastly, we wanted to recommend a powerful podcast in which well-known Pastor Rick Warren discusses his own church’s journey of acknowledging racism and learning to talk about race (approximately the first third of the podcast).
January 2021 - An Update - Where are we now?
20th January 2021
After a meeting of the Diversity TaskForce on 20th January, Mike sent this update to the church.
In our Sunday morning service on 10th January, Tolu shared a short update which was followed by a Q&A on Zoom. But here's a little more about what the next steps are in the Listening for a Change journey.
God is leading this and as a church we want to seek and trust His leading. He will build His kingdom of every tribe and tongue Rev 7:9. Tolu writes...
WHAT’S BEEN ACHIEVED?
- We have appointed a small Diversity Task Force to guide the process. Along with Andy and myself (Tolu) it includes Akeem Adagbada, Chris Gonde, Dzifa Appeah, Eian Stedford, Joshua Pedro (Youth liaison), Mike Panesar-Bourne (Evening Service liaison), Sarah Horner and Winnie Obese-Bempong (staff liaison). The entire taskforce can be reached at the email address email@example.com
2. We appointed Revd Dr Kate Coleman, after searching for expert outside help. It's important to have someone provide an outside perspective, keep us accountable and provide expertise and experience from other contexts
3. A team of “change champions” have put themselves forward. We may not have captured all the names so please do confirm to us if you’d like to be a CC - even if you already have. CC’s will be trained to help lead some listening groups and be asked to share progress and feedback views from their church network.
WHAT DO WE WANT TO ACHIEVE?
1. Everyone feels heard
2. Culture change – both how we relate to one another, and the way we do things – our systems and processes!
3. Support personal reconciliation between individuals where needed
4. Develop and implement recommendations for change within the church leadership. Change is crucial. Listening must lead to cultural and structural
change in our church.
1. The Task Force is checking in with people of colour across the church via a session (date TBC) in the next week or so. It is vital that we create safe spaces so that people can be honest and open and still feel safe. This has been one of the Task Force’s early learnings - the need for safe spaces for people of colour.
2. Kate will be running her first Listening session with the Task Force itself, to trial it and experience it ourselves, on 20 January
3. Change champions will be invited on an evening on either 10 or 24 February. You’ll get an email soon.
4. We are building a 6 month process of listening groups. Ultimately everyone will be invited to take part. Phase 1 will run the process for the PCC and staff team.
5. Phase 2 in April-May will run, these groups will be run for the whole church.
6. Start sharing recommendations with the church leadership and PCC in Sept 2021
Throughout: the Taskforce wants to hear comments, ideas, questions and feedback at any time. You can contact the taskforce at firstname.lastname@example.org
October 2020 - Newsflash - Our External Moderator
Newsflash: Rev Dr Kate Coleman has kindly agreed to be our external moderator. She will work alongside Tolu, Andy, Jonathan and Jenny to hold us accountable as a church on this journey.
You can read more about Kate here and we hope to introduce her to our church family soon.
At our November Listening for a Change zoom call, Kate talked us through the biblical basis for the journey we're on and you can listen to this talk here.
September 2020 - Introducing Listening for a Change
“I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9).
This is a picture of God’s Kingdom. It includes every nation. In case it’s not clear enough, the three following words declare the same truth – God’s Kingdom is for every tribe, people and language. The one unifying power in this stupendous diversity is the Lamb on the throne. He is Jesus.
This is a glorious vision. We rejoice that this is our destination and we are so thankful to God for the glimpses we get of this kingdom coming here on earth as it is in heaven.
However, we recognise that as a church nationally, and here at All Saints, we fall far short of this picture.
Sin is not always conscious or deliberate, and the sin of racism that pervades our world is also present within the church. As we recognise this, so we must repent - turn towards Jesus - and move towards this vision of radical inclusion and Christ-defined unity.
As the church leadership team, we believe God has used this moment to open our eyes in a new way to the ways in which this sin has marred the worship and witness of His church here at All Saints, and to lead us as a church into a time of renewed listening and active repentance.
So what does that mean?
So what are we doing?
‘Listening for a change’ has as its purpose to reveal all racism within our midst by listening and learning, and then following recommendations from the appointed Task Force, to change our practices. Our PCC (Parochial Church Council ) has given its unanimous backing to us investing in this process.
We will be following the same process to address other forms of discrimination effectively excluding people, such as those with different abilities.
We recognise that addressing this issue is not a ‘bolt-on’ but it is part of our discipleship of Jesus, and so it must impact on our whole church life. The following is not an exhaustive list but some of the ways in which we are seeking to move forward as we ‘listen for a change’:
To help us as a church own this process and bring about lasting change, we are looking to appoint a skilled external Facilitator to help us. (Update: see newsflash above!)
We have also asked Tolu Stedford and Andy Blacknell as respected All Saints’ members to be the Co-Chairs of it, to work with a Task Force of others within the church from across the spectrum of ages, nationalities and backgrounds. They will help to hold the PCC and clergy accountable, in the best possible sense, and to implement lasting change.
2. Listen and learn
We are seeking to hear the stories and experiences of those whose voices have too often been unheard – and to respond with the change that is needed. This will be through …
- Offering safe spaces for people’s experiences to be shared which guarantee psychological and emotional safety, encourage active engagement and reframe conflict and old hurts.
- Ensuring our teaching reflects God’s call into counter-culturally diverse communities, within sermons and elsewhere, including within our children’s and young people’s groups.
- Learning in groups, including an anti-racism learning group which has started meeting on zoom throughout the summer. We are aware that a number of existing small groups have been having significant conversations around this issue.
We’ve published a list of some selected resources to read, watch or listen to which some of us are finding helpful in our learning in this area. We expect that this will expand as we, as a whole church community, seek to listen well.
Based on what has been heard, the Facilitator in consultation with the Chairs of this process and the Diversity Task Force, will make recommendations to the PCC. These will outline specific ways to ensure real inclusion of all in the body of Christ the church is called to be. These recommendations will be considered by PCC and a public response made to each point.
This literally means having a ‘new mind’ from which a new behaviour results. We need to think differently and equally act differently to truly be All Saints rather than Some Saints. This will need to be a corporate act turning us towards the goodness of God which his truly diverse Kingdom represents.
5. Live out our change
As noted above we want listening to become part of who we are. ‘Listening for a change’ in many ways will never stop, there are always going to be ways we need to be awakened by the Spirit of God to the new things He is doing and where we need to repent in order to grow as His body. This will include speaking out and standing up against racism, being advocates for racial equality, and advocating also for others who we recognise the church has also excluded.
If you have questions, comments or want to find out more about how you can engage with this process, please do get in touch. And pray for us. That the vision would become our reality.