Anglican Church to observe Racial Justice Sunday
The Anglican Church of Bermuda will be observing Racial Justice Sunday tomorrow, February 14, for the first time.
This observance comes as a part of a diocesan-wide initiative to address historical issues of racial injustice within the local Anglican Church and to work towards healing and reconciliation.
In July of last year, the Right Reverend Nicholas Dill, Anglican Bishop of Bermuda formed the Racial Justice Committee in the wake of the international outrage and local support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
“This is something which has been brewing for a long time,” he said. “We decided, as a clergy body, to join in the Black Lives Matter march and it sparked a desire within me to see the church become actively involved in issues of justice, particularly racial justice.
“Part of that is telling the truth about where we come from and intentionally address the issues to allow for there to be healing and a greater sense of unity.”
This is not the first time that the Anglican Church of Bermuda has sought to address this issue. The Right Reverend Ewen Ratteray, the former Anglican Bishop of Bermuda, brought the subject to the forefront in 2007 when he offered an apology on behalf of the church for its involvement in the slave trade and perpetuation of racial discrimination.
Bishop Dill is revisiting that sentiment with a commitment to conversation about the church’s racial history.
“There are issues present that are systemic and connected to our racial history and a narrative of white superiority. We are aware that even within our own church history there has been a very complicated relationship regarding race.
“For me as white person, my eyes are being opened. I could never fully understand the experience of a black person, so this is a process of listening to each other with humility and love. Justice is about love – love of God and love of our fellow human beings. The scriptures say that if you claim to love God and not your brother you are a liar.”
The Racial Justice Committee is comprised of both clergy and lay persons and is chaired by Joan Dillas-Wright, a member of Christ Anglican Church Devonshire.
“I was a bit taken back when he asked me to chair this committee,” she said. “I have been involved in the Anglican church for some time. My family attended St John’s Church and I still remember that history of having to sit at the back of the church and not being able to be totally involved.
“I was always impressed by Bishop Dill and his openness and his desire to address this issue. After reflection, I decided that I should be a part of this.”
The committee will be working toward creating a charter for racial justice for the Anglican Church of Bermuda, highlighting and celebrating the contributions of Black Anglicans in the history and development of the church, and creating opportunities for education and reconciliation to take place.
“I’m impressed with the work the committee has done so far and really looking forward to the work to come. We have a great team of committed people and are working with organisations like CURB to really make meaningful progress,” Ms Dillas-Wright said.
“If we are going to break things down, we also have to rebuild it after. So, we have to educate and work to change people’s attitudes.”
Racial Justice Sunday is an inter-denominational initiative in the United Kingdom where Christians join to reflect on the importance of race relations and diversity and to also pray for an end to racism and injustice.
The theme for this year is ‘A Time to Act’ and Anglican churches around Bermuda will be observing this in different ways in their individual services.
This is the first of several initiatives planned by the committee. Later this month the Anglican Church of Bermuda will host a Lent Bible study for its members on the topic of racial justice and reconciliation. The Bible study will be held virtually during the Lenten period and will reflect on Christ’s teachings of love and unity.
“Lent is a time of both individual and corporate reflection. The Lent course will help us learn how we can apply our faith to bring about reconciliation, healing and forgiveness,” Bishop Dill explained.
“The Anglican Church is a very racially mixed church and there is a lot of diversity already present. But that is not universally so, and it isn’t always reflected in our leadership. There is still work to be done.
“God’s purpose for the world is to have every ethnicity around the throne of God and if we are putting stumbling blocks in the way, that undermines the gospel. Diversity is not the end goal. The end goal is unity.”
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