By Rev. Steve Greene
It’s been a long, a long time coming, but I know a change gonna come
Another February is here! Amidst the cold chill and the frosty ground, we are given the opportunity to learn the names of Blacks who have contributed to the world. Be it Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler in the field of medicine. Be it Phillis Wheatley and Toni Morrison in the field of literature. Be it Julian Abele in the field of architecture.
The list is long and rich, yet how often have we thought of the Christians who have come from different countries within the continent of Africa? How often have we thought of the West Indies and the many lives and sub-cultures that have been set aside, ostracized and discounted (ie. West Indian Domestic Scheme). It is time we pay attention to the muted voices and unseen faces who have made an indelible mark in the Scriptures. There is a litany of men and women who have formed our faith, defended the faith, taught and formed the next generation to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).
This month, I am excited, with the support of the churches I serve, St. Thomas the Apostle and St. Luke’s, to present Christian heroes. We are gifted with stories to read, research and delve into the annals of Church History, Christianity and The Holy Scriptures. We are given the beautiful opportunity to receive the light by some impressive and incomparable people who have helped The Body of Christ heal from the many hurts and brokenness, hold onto the promises of God’s redeeming love and hear the voice of the One who suffers with the marginalized.
I wanted to initiate this ministry rooted in our Bishop’s charge because we are called “to be a new, learning, diverse and just church.” We can only know and understand the “other voice” by walking beside them, actively listening, celebrating in their moments of joy and crying in their moments of grief and despair.
The Bible teaches and looks to the multiethnic fellowship within the people of God (Acts 2:1-13). Unfortunately, for centuries, the vision, voice and the inclusion of the Black body has historically been set to a simple footnote or passed over and relegated to a “minor” voice in the Canon of the Old and New Covenants (ie. Hagar, Manasseh and Ephraim, Zipporah, Simon of Cyrene and the Ethiopian eunuch). I was taught that Jesus hears and holds the people of ethnicity (Revelation 7:9-10) and John highlights the richness of diversity and that the very diversity of cultures and peoples is the manifestation of God’s glory. I have been taught (thanks Mom and Granny) that the Holy One’s eschatological and everlasting vision for the reconciliation of all things requires my blackness and my daughter’s First Nations’ identity (for example). I have been taught that colour-blindness (“I don’t see your colour Steve”) is “sub-biblical”. It falls short of the glory of God and the fundamental lie that Christianity is “the white man’s religion” is historically wrong, vehemently sinful and has poisoned the hearts and minds of many black people who hunger food from the Bread of Life!
I am honoured to present twenty-eight (28) pivotal and critical people. Many you may know, some you will not and others who will help us deepen our ecclesial interpretation, historical and theological framework to faithfully walk into a better and hope-filled future!
Thank you all for being part of this incredible journey and I hope the names and stories of Josephine Bakhita, Rev. Absalom Jones, Amma Syncletica and many, many others will help us walk together. This journey will help us listen to each others’ stories and faithfully serve one another, profess the Good News and bear our Lord’ s fruits for the world to see and receive.
Rev. Steve Greene, St. Luke’s, Cambridge; St. Thomas The Apostle, Cambridge