Serman on Racial Justice Sunday by Rev’d Belemo Alagoa

Serman on Racial Justice Sunday by Rev’d Belemo Alagoa

Sermon on Racial Justice Sunday: Luke 18 1-8 & Genesis 32.22-31

Today we mark Racial Justice Sunday which seem appropriate seeing that it falls within October
which is celebrated as Black History Month. I will come back to this later, the two scripture readings
we just heard have a common thread that links them persistence/ perseverance. In the OT reading
Jacob having directed his two wives, 11 children, his belongings and servants across the Jibbok
stream to safety was in fear of what his brother Esau might do when they meet so remained on the
opposite shore alone. A little reminder of their relationship. Jacob made his brother sell him his birth
right for a bowl of soup and deceived their father Isaac into blessing him instead of Esau (the first
born) and ran away to stay with their mother’s brother Laban for his safety. In today’s reading he is
returning home with his family, servants, animals and goods. No surprise that he is fearful of what
Esau might do to him when they meet as he been told he had 400 men with him. That night Jacob
found himself fighting with a man throughout, he won’t let go even when he was wounded until he
received a blessing. It turned out he was fighting with God, Jacob was persistent. God encourages
persistence in all areas of our lives, including the spiritual. I wonder where in your spiritual life you
need more persistence? Strong character develops as you struggle through tough conditions. God
gave many people new names in the Bible (Abram – Abraham, Sara – Sarah, Simon – Peter). Their
new names were symbols of how God had changed their lives. We see here, Jacob’s character has
changed. Jacob, the ambitious deceiver, had now become Israel, the one who struggles with God
and overcomes. Jacob named the place Peniel because he has striven with God and with humans
and have prevailed.

This leads me neatly into our Gospel reading, which focuses on a widow who is so persistent that she
persuades an unjust judge to change his mind and grant her justice. Not because he wants to be
good, he is no respecter of man or God, but purely because she is being a nuisance and he basically
wants to shut her up. This comparison with God is what makes this passage uncomfortable reading,
and maybe quite difficult to understand. However, the point being made here, is that if someone of
such a poor character like the judge can be persuaded to do something good for someone else, how
much more generously will a great and loving God, act. How much more will that same loving God
hear our cries. This parable is telling us to persevere in what we feel is right. It is a parable about our
need to pray always and not lose heart. It speaks to us today of perseverance, of never giving up on
God, because God does not give up on us.

When I consider the history of Black people, it is a story of perseverance of never giving up. From the
mistreatment of slavery trade to police brutality and the effect of Covid-19 on black and brown
people in present day. They have persisted, they have fought and they have taught those coming up

behind them, they have been patient and today I can stand here as a Black person all the better
because of what has gone before. There is still a lot to be done, we as a nation still have a lot to
learn and change because Black Lives do matter.

Black History Month has been around in some form or another since 1926 in America, when it was
originally called Negro History Week, before becoming African-American History Month. It was
started in the UK in 1987 when the Ghanaian born Akyaaba Addai-Sebo heard the story of a young
six-year-old Black boy ask his mother why can’t he be white. He worked on a project with the then
Greater London Council (GLC) to bring about Black History Month (BHM) which started on 1 October
1987 and has been going ever since.

Many of you may not know the exact details of how Black History month came into being, but you
may have heard of it and know that it has been around for many years. However, I wonder how
many of you have heard of CMEAC, and, if you have, do you realise how long it has been in
existence? Well you may come as a surprised to learn that it also began in 1987, when it was
originally called CBAC (Committee for Black Anglican Concerns). In 1996 it became known by the
name we know today, Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns (CMEAC). It was initially
created following a report called Faith in the City which was commissioned by the General Synod,
where one of the recommendations was to establish a body to address the concerns of Black people
in the Anglican Church. The Right Revd Dr Wilfred Wood, the first black Bishop in the Church of
England, was appointed chair of the Committee which held its first meeting in April 1987. One of the
major issues was to tackle the lack of black people representation in the General Synod structure
centrally and although was not set up to look at local parishes indirectly that was expected. It
primarily involved addressing the issues nationally, and when the Macpherson report was published
addressing the issue of Institutional racism, the church took upon itself to do something about it by
looking at its own structures and especially here in the Diocese of Southwark.

So, jumping forward to CMEAC today, in the Diocese of Southwark, we have three Area MEACs, in
Kingston, Woolwich and Croydon. I have been a member of Kingston MEAC since 2013. In 2015, the
Bishop’s council commissioned a review of the role of the Southwark Diocese’s Minority Ethnic
Anglican Concerns Committee. The report is called, The World in the Diocese, and it included many
recommendations, among which is that Area MEACs are to report directly to the Diocesan
Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglian Concerns, which is chaired by Bishop Christopher.
We aim to raise awareness of the concerns of the local parishes that Minority Ethnic Anglicans face,
and offer support to those who work alongside them such as incumbents of black (BAME) majority

parishes. Hopefully, you saw the notice in our parish bulletin advertising the black history month
celebrations at Southwark Cathedral which was held on zoom on the 3 rd of October. If you missed it,
you may wish to join Kington MEAC on the 25 th of October at 5pm, the zoom details will be published
on our parish bulletin nearer the time or you may ask Mark or myself and the theme this year is
Black Youth, Police, Justice and Prison.

What keeps you going until you receive your blessing, do not give up. Be persistent with prayer, it
does not mean endless repetition or painfully long prayer sessions. Always praying means keeping
our requests constantly before God as we live day by day believing he will answer. When we live by
faith, we do not give up. God may delay answering but his delays always have good reasons. As we
persist in prayer we grow in character, faith, and hope. CMEAC started in 1987 and we are still aware
that we have not spread the news to everybody. Black History Month reminds us of the
perseverance of all who have gone before us and never gave up. Today, we at Kingston MEAC
continue to be a presence and invite you to come on board, to join us, as together we can challenge
the structures that caused and still cause so much injustice to other people and to change our
attitudes too, it is our duty as Christians to work towards justice for all through our prayers and
actions. I conclude with a quote in response to tribal and religious conflict in Nigeria by Umar, a
commentator, “that there are two tribes and religions in the world, the good and the bad. Those
that belong to the good will continue to do good and be judged by their deeds. Those that have
chosen to belong to bad will reap what they sow, however the world will be a better place if we all
belong to one tribe, the good tribe whether we are black, brown or white”. Amen.

Revd Belemo Alagoa

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