School of Mission Welcomes Racial Justice Advisers for Practical Teaching Session

School of Mission Welcomes Racial Justice Advisers for Practical Teaching Session

But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!

Amos 5

On Saturday 24 February, tutors and students training for Licensed Lay and Ordained Ministry joined together with the National Minority Ethnic Vocation Officer for the Archbishop’s Council, Rosemary Davidson, and Racial Justice Adviser, Polly Falconer, for a Racial Justice Training Day.

Taking place at St Paul’s Winchester, the day was framed by the biblical verse from Amos 5: with the aim of providing graspable and practical steps which people could take to ‘let justice roll like a river’ in their context. As ministers in training and future leaders in the Church of England, the attendees were encouraged to use their position, privilege, and power to challenge racism, injustice and unconscious bias, helping to establish equity and cultures of mutual respect, united in the body of Christ.

The opening section of the day was designed to challenge participants by painting a true picture of some the racial injustices faced by BAME people in the UK: the leaders presented statistics showing the extent of the pay gaps and health inequalities which many in the group found challenging and confronting.

The future leaders in the room were then encouraged to consider the question: what does it meant to be actively anti-racist? “Many people found this initially a bit nerve-wracking as they think it must have to involve being confrontational,” said Helen O’Sullivan, LMT Tutor, “but Rosemarie and Polly gave us many practical tools, such as asking curious questions rather than making statements. For example, if a person says something that sounds racist, ask them ‘Can you say that again please?’ which may help shine a light on the harm of what they are saying.”

The group also looked at issues of unconscious bias, and were given the awareness that it is difficult to eliminate one’s bias altogether, as we all come with history that has formed our thinking – rather, a first practical step is to start by being aware of it. “We learnt that it’s about slowing down, taking a moment to recognise what am I bringing to each situation that is going to shape my thinking,” said Helen. “It’s only from this place of awareness that unconscious bias can be neutralised – we can’t eliminate it but we can then work to counter it.”

Finally, the group were asked to consider a profound question: If you could wake up tomorrow and the Church of England was as you wanted it to be, what miracle would had to have happened? Importantly, this question encouraged the participants to think about the steps to change, and what to pray for.

After the event, many students gave the feedback that it provided a thought-provoking day…

Thank you for enlightening me and challenging my thinking!

Jane N

I would like to see more of these sessions within the Diocese and parish life, so it normalises conversations and brings us to a place with less ‘us’ and ‘them’. I believe these foundations are so important, as we grow as church.

Me O

This was a gift.  I am so grateful to have been able to be present to learn and to been challenged.

Ian C

It made you examine your own attitudes and challenged me to think about the potential as a minister to use my position for good. I plan to look through available resources and reflect on ways material can be incorporated ( i.e. in intercessions, schools work, and preaching).

Helen H

The day was part of ongoing work to ensure the School of Mission continues to be shaped by different voices and grow in diversity. Next month, the LMT team are very excited to be welcoming Nina Kurlburg and Bisi Obamakin, two post docs who are working with the Common Awards team to equip Theological educators to diversify the curriculum both in terms of resources and practice. Watch this space for news of their visit!