On May 18th, Deptford Deanery held a Forum called “Let’s talk about Race”. Over 60 people attended on Zoom, representing most of the churches in Deptford Deanery. The speaker was Ben Lindsay, who is the CEO of Power the Fight. The presentation raised awareness of some of the issues faced by black and brown people within society and the Church. He tackled being anti-racist, unconscious bias, microaggressions and the challenge for churches to be more active and vocal in their support of anti-racism and to listen more to the black experience within church life.

We organised this event in response to the death of George Floyd and because of a desire to raise awareness of the importance of Racial Justice. We know that sometimes this issue has been swept under the carpet or not sufficiently addressed. Emotions can run high and people can get hurt or feel misunderstood. There needs to be greater understanding within our church communities, but also a greater commitment to action. To move from ‘not being racist’ to being ‘anti-racist’. This can be a tough journey – engagement is costly and hard work, but it is imperative and we wanted to support churches as much as possible in this process. We can be afraid of being too political, of saying the wrong thing, sometimes the white community is not aware enough of the issues facing the black and brown community. This forum was a way of starting conversations or nurturing existing ones. It was there to resource the journey to being anti-racist – the opening paragraph, rather than the closing speech.

Ben Lindsay has a clarity and frankness about his presentation style that encourages discussion and engagement – and from the feedback I know that everyone found the session stimulating, challenging and moving.

As a Deanery, committed to justice issues, we strongly welcome the diocese’s Anti-Racism Charter and the C of E report “From Lament to Action.” There seems to be a real shift in energy and renewed commitment to this issue – which is heartening to see. As a deanery we are keen to see real and tangible changes that make a significant difference to the way the black and brown community feel seen, heard, supported and empowered. I am reminded of the suffragettes’ slogan: “Deeds not words”.

We need both diocesan strategies and a commitment at grass roots level. But my sense is that people are willing to actively engage with this and help to bring about that change.  As a Deanery, we will be focussing on Anti-Racism over the next two years – encouraging parishes to go on significant journeys – to build greater understanding, to vastly improve representation and to enable a much greater diversity of voices at the table.