Celebrating Windrush 75

Reflections from the CTE team on the events to mark the 75th Windrush Anniversary

Celebrations to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Windrush generation took place across the country at the end of June. The boldness, courage, and incredible legacy of the Windrush generation were displayed across churches and communities. We also marked the sharp inequalities this community has endured, particularly through the Windrush scandal.

CTE’s Principal Officer for Pentecostal, Charismatic and Multi-cultural Relations, Shermara Fletcher, writes…

The 75th anniversary took place to primarily remember the docking of the MV Empire Windrush, into Tilbury Docks. The ship brought more than 500 Caribbean men and women, Commonwealth citizens, who responded to an invitation to come to a country in recovery from the Second World War. Since arriving in the UK from the Caribbean between 1948 and 1971, the Windrush generation has made an immeasurable contribution to our society.

Member Churches in CTE, particularly from our Pentecostal and Charismatic Forum were founded by Windrush pioneers. One of the ways that CTE celebrated this rich heritage, as well as honouring its commitment to speak against racial injustice, was by being a key partner in the planning of the National Windrush service on 22 June 2023. This civic service took place at Southwark Cathedral and involved worship, music, reflections, and readings. Reverend Arlington Trotman, the former racial justice director for Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) gave a prophetic call to justice and a prophetic rap was offered by Mobo award winner Still Shady.

CTE’s General Secretary, Bishop Mike Royal, was in the opening procession of church leaders and as CTE’s Principal Officer for Pentecostal, Charismatic and Multi-cultural relations, I was honoured to address the service, my sermon reminding audiences not to stay in generational silos, to work for a just environment and that remaining in one’s comfort zone can stifle an individual’s ability to flourish. I represented younger voices and stressed the importance of building upon the legacies of the Windrush generation.  

On the evening of 22 June, I joined the New Testament Church of God’s (NCTG) National Windrush service which was also broadcast online. Their Administrative Bishop, Bishop Claion Grandison, appealed to oppressive structures to set people and communities free, so that they could flourish and grow. He also reminded worshippers of the importance of no longer asking to be accepted but urged them to walk in self-acceptance.

As I reflect on the Windrush 75 anniversary and the great services and celebrations that took place across the country, I must admit that I have a mixture of emotions. It feels surreal to me that as my grandparents, their friends, and their generation are sadly passing away, they are being collectively memorialised, referred to as a piece of British history, and their stories are starting to be placed in cultural archives.

Windrush 75 was a special moment of national recognition that honoured the contributions to the social, economic, and spiritual life of the nation. Whilst we celebrate, we also remember the responsibility to advocate for justice and the flourishing of all.

CTE General Secretary Bishop Mike Royal writes…

My Windrush Day 2023 began with a Service of Celebration of the arrival of Empire Windrush at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle with His Majesty King Charles III. After greeting His Majesty, I dashed over to the Southwark Cathedral Cathedral for a National Windrush Anniversary service with many other ecumenical colleagues, including the Rt Rev Rosemary Mallet, Bishop of Croydon.

On Windrush Sunday, 25 June 2023, it was a delight for me to join Bishop Malcolm Cummins, the New Testament Church of God’s national ecumenical representative at CTE, for a civic service at his church in Aldershot. The highlight of this service was a video interview with two women who came from the Caribbean to work as nurses in the mid-1960’s. These same women had greeted us as ushers as we had entered through the door of the church that morning. A testament to that generation’s staying power!

Later that day, the City of Birmingham’s official Windrush service was at the New Testament Church of God, Handsworth. It was led by Bishop Dr Desmond Jaddoo MBE and traced the journey of many of our ancestors from Africa, to the Caribbean, to Britain. Shermara Fletcher and I both shared the journey of our grandparents and parents from Jamaica in the late 1950’s to the UK.

This service celebrated the past, present, and future and emphasized the injustice of the Windrush scandal, celebrated the contribution of Windrush councillors in Birmingham and highlighted the tragic death of Dea John Reid and the campaign in his name for jury reform.

Photomontage of Birmingham Windrush 75 service
Photomontage of Birmingham Windrush 75 service

These services were wonderful to attend and all seemed to strike the right balance between the hardship and racism the Windrush Generation faced, yet with a steady beat, their resilience and resistance. This is our story. A story of the black church in Britain. A story that will inspire future generations from across the church spectrum. As Rt Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Anglican Bishop of Dover, said at St George’s Chapel, they were more than the “Windrush Generation” they were “Windrush Pioneers” paving the way for so many communities to migrate to Britain in the post-war years. Next stop #Windrush80!

CTE Senior Communications and Media Manager Sarah Ball writes…

I took part in the ‘Walk of Witness’ from Waterloo Station to Southwark Cathedral organised by our colleagues at CTBI. Church leaders walked alongside representatives from the National Health Service, the London Fire Brigade, the Metropolitan Police Service and Transport for London. These are all institutions to which the Windrush generation gave immense service.

Members of the group took it in turns to carry a floral tribute in the shape of an anchor, which would eventually be placed by the altar in the national service at Southwark Cathedral. Under the baking sun, as we snaked through the streets, voices were raised up in the spontaneous singing of songs and hymns.