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.
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.