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Racial Justice Sunday Service

A report on the London Baptist Association (LBA) Racial Justice evening service. By the Revd Davinia Roberts (Mitcham Lane Baptist Church) and the Revd Dave Mahon (Brockley Baptist Church)

Last Sunday we had the opportunity to attend a London Baptist Association (LBA) Racial Justice evening service, hosted at Rye Lane Baptist Church. The evening provided an opportunity to us to reflect on the 50th anniversary of Baptist minister the Revd Dr Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream…’ speech. 

On the busy Peckham High Street, neatly tucked between the Irish Butcher Shop and the Clarkes Outlet store is Rye Lane Chapel. Peckham is in the borough of Southwark – typical of many inner city areas in its mix and blend of cultures, ethnicities and economies a fitting venue for the LBA Racial Justice Service and the challenging theme of ‘Undiluted Oneness’.

The evening commenced with a warm welcome by Revd Frank Goveia (Pastor of Rye Lane Chapel) followed by a short address by Revd. Geoff Andrews, Regional Team Leader the London Baptist Association. The diverse congregation was led in worship by ABBRR, (meaning Presence Cloud) an Urdu worship rock band based in Walthamstow. We joined in worship with familiar songs – the melodic beat of the tabla adding depth and nuance to the music. ABBRR also sang two Urdu songs of praise and worship.

In acknowledgement of the March on Washington, led by Dr King, we heard an overview of the purpose, context and impact of the August 1963 event followed by a reflection on the current challenges and the current global context.

Some of us had reluctantly accepted the blank envelope handed to us at the door – what gimmick or game would ensue to take us out of our comfort zone, or was it for an offering that we had not come prepared for. But each envelope contained a name – no game or gimmick – just the name of a person who had been murdered in which race either was or suspected to be the motive for the violence. As the Revd Kumar Rajagopalan read out the 104 names of the individuals who had lost their lives in such circumstances since the death of Stephen Lawrence in April 1993, the congregation responded by lighting a candle for each of those named and with prayers of intercession for their families.

Due to problems with his travel documents the Revd Dr Neville Callam, General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance was unfortunately not able to be our keynote speaker.

However Kumar’s address on ‘Undiluted oneness’ was a clear and challenging message evidencing God’s commitment to oneness from the ‘made in the image of God’ creation account in Genesis, through Jesus as ‘the enfleshed reality’, to the Revelation 7 portrayal of an eternity with every tribe, tongue and nation standing before God in unified worship. His personal reflections caused the hearer to self- examine – given the right setting we are all at danger of defaulting to ingrained, discriminating attitudes and behaviour.

Following a final act of worship and prayer we shared supper together which had been prepared by our hosts at Rye Lane Chapel.

The Revd Davinia Roberts (Mitcham Lane Baptist Church) and the Revd Dave Mahon (Brockley Baptist Church)

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