Racial Equality – Holy Redeemer Church, Streatham
We were asked by the PCC to talk to the church family about their experiences of racial Equality in our church and the wider community following the death of George Floyd and the inequalities and unconscious bias, which was highlighted in society.
The aim is to enable us to preach the gospel more effectively, conscious of the effect our words have on our diverse congregation. Also, our aim is for the words Jesus preached to be endorsed by the church family; to be loving, caring and help one another.
So, we asked ourselves ‘What is racism?’ It could be defined where someone treats you differently because of your colour, ethnicity, nationality, or race. This could mean that they treat you differently or unfairly. This could be a learned stereotype that is automatic, unintentional, deeply ingrained, and able to influence behaviour. It can range from subtle comments to overt action and hostile, derogatory, negative racial slants and insults.
We are all aware of the inequalities in the wider community. We hear it on the TV everyday which affect the lives of minority groups in our society.
Saying we are not racist is no longer good enough, we all need to do more to eradicate racism. This means standing up as an ally and actively promote equality. We must speak up as racial inequality is not acceptable in our society today.
Our findings within the Holy Redeemer Church:
We contacted the congregation in the newsletter and the church notices, contacted members by email, WhatsApp, and telephone. Face to face communication was difficult because of Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions it has put on us all. Between us we received responses from approximately 20% of the congregation.
Most of our findings were positive, and we found that most people think racial inequality does not exist and they have not experienced it within the church setting and they feel included in the church. Some people found it difficult to talk about racism and some found it emotionally draining and did not want to talk about it, as it could affect their mental state. One comment was that we need to be careful of our teachings and some of the stories used from commercial books that occasionally depict black in the negative and white in the positive context (especially in a Sunday school setting).
Below are some of the questions asked and answers given.
|Do you feel comfortable to express your cultural ethnic identity in church? e.g. dress code.||Responses were that they were comfortable to express their cultural identity. However, disappointment was expressed with some who were not happy with those inappropriately dressed when they are playing an active part in services.|
|Do you feel you can discuss racial issues with (a) church leaders (b) congregation?||Responses were that they feel they can approach Ian and the PCC members; many have done so in the past. They think Ian is open to discussion. It was also felt that the Church would be a constructive place to discuss racial issues.|
|Have you experienced any racial discrimination within the church or at events?||Most people did not experience and racial discrimination in church.|
|Do you feel as though you are a valued member of the church?||Everyone we spoke to felt they are valued and included within the church family, which has improved over the years.|
|Do you feel opportunities are made available or are accessible to you to have an active role in the church?||The majority we spoke to felt opportunities are made available but fearful of lack of support or being thrown in at the “deep end” which can be embarrassing. Others responded that opportunities were available to a certain extent and more could be done to involve more people in different ministries and it was felt that the church leadership did not have confidence in the congregation although this is slowly changing.|
|Do you feel the church is sensitive to or recognises racial issues?||The replies were that the church may not fully understand the sensitivity to racial issues and how it affects people from minority groups daily. Also, that the church recognises racial issues, but the subject is not given much airtime.|
|Do you feel the church understand or emphasise with racial discrimination that ethnic groups face?||We found that the leadership has a limited awareness of the experiences that minority groups face, as different groups face different types of discrimination. As a church we could do more to listen to each other’s experience and other prejudices such as ageism.|
|Do you feel that your race plays a part in how you are welcomed or interacted with at the Holy Redeemer?||We found that everyone is welcomed and greeted equally, and that race did not come into it.|
|Do you think that you have enough knowledge about race relations and discriminations? Would you like to learn more?||Some people said that they did not have enough knowledge about minority groups, race relations or the history. Others said they had enough knowledge about it. Some said they would welcome more information as there is no limit to how much we should seek to understand each other’s experience, our own prejudices and repent on them.|
|Have you ever witnessed racism within the church?||Some people said they come to church to worship and leave. If it is there, they would not know, and they have not seen it. Others said they have not witnessed it in the church but have in the wider community.|
|Would you feel comfortable to challenge racism?||Some people would challenge racism. Some would challenge in the church and at work, but in the community, some were reluctant because of safety and depending on the situation.|
- The fact that we did not find any major problems within the church family, we should encourage open discussion and awareness, especially about what is happening in the wider community so that we can support, care and pray that attitudes may change for the benefit of all.
- PCC members could have open discussions on racial inequalities so that we are aware and can pray for the church family in the workplace who are susceptible to institutional racism.
- PCC could encourage church family to support and care and pray for each other, so that we can effectively proclaim the gospel and make disciples for Christ.
- We need to maintain a demographic mix on the PCC that mirrors the demographics of the church family.
- The church family could be encouraged to bring their prayer requests to Ian if they are experiencing challenges at work or in the wider community and to speak up should they experience racism within the church.
- The PCC should remain vigilant about future problems that may arise and develop their awareness, so that they can support the church family in a positive manner.
- The PCC should ensure that training is given to church family who are willing to get involved with church ministries.
We hope the PCC members find this information useful, so that it can assist us in the various ministries within the church.
Report prepared by:
Shirley Wallace & Velma Robinson
Updated: 13 September 2020