Questions of race have been a lot in the news of late.
This is an extremely sensitive subject. I want to share with the church discussions I have had with the church council and with local church leaders (from all denominations). I also want to say to all church members that if you have thoughts or concerns on this matter, feel free to get in touch with me for a confidential conversation – the best way to reach me is via email, firstname.lastname@example.org
Can I start by encouraging congregation members to have a look at an online interview of minority ethnic church leaders from Middlesbrough, interviewed by Steve Sutton, minister of Coulby Newham Baptist Church. They share their experiences of racial prejudice in the Tees Valley. What they share is disturbing, but it is really important that their voices are heard. The link to the video is here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yh0ALh0lMs&feature=youtu.be.
In the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in the USA, Middlesbrough church leaders have signed a statement condemning racism. After consultation with the churchwardens of St Barnabas, myself, Lindsey and Mark felt it right to sign that statement and you can see it here: https://mailchi.mp/317b3419073c/teesside-leaders-statement-on-racism?fbclid=IwAR33Pb59BYex82bz9CZSr-4mF5rjohsypYfgJv-BnSZJJGA2jhGl-HGM5ts. Necessarily, such statements are ‘broad-brush’. For myself, can I stress that the gospel teaches us to value every person as God values them. Whoever we encounter, whatever their ethnicity, we must love them as Jesus loves us. That is true inside the church fellowship. But it also means working for the well-being of all the people of Middlesbrough, beyond the walls of the church, since ‘in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile’. We are ‘all one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:28).
In St Barnabas’ ‘Immeasurably More’ conversations via Zoom there was a deep desire to see the church share the gospel with and reflect the growing ethnic diversity of the town of Middlesbrough. St Barnabas is already greatly enriched by the wide spectrum of nationalities who are part of its fellowship. Let’s pray for and work for that to deepen in the years ahead.