Birmingham Churches Together’s Ecumenical Officer, Robert Mountford, shares the story of a landmark interdenominational event in the city…
Around 1,500 people from across Birmingham attended the ‘Racial Reconciliation, Repentance and Restoration’ service held at St Andrew’s Football Stadium on Sunday afternoon, 17 October. Among the congregation were up to 100 leaders from the city’s churches, including senior leaders from both historic and Black-led Churches. Sung worship was facilitated by (among others) Tim Hughes and a group from the New Jerusalem Community Church based in Aston. Leaders from different Churches brought reflections and led prayers. The Saltmine Theatre Company presented a relevant drama based on the theme of resurrection. Pastor Calvin Young (Mount Zion Community Church) presented a call for future unity among Birmingham’s Church leaders and church members.
The interdenominational service was impacted by the information that Birmingham had been involved in the transatlantic slave trade, because its factories had produced the chains and neck-braces which were used to shackle the slaves, as well as the guns which were used to kill them. The tools of slavery and death were transported along the city’s canals to the coast, from where they were shipped to Africa and the Caribbean. In this way, the city grew rich from the machinery of slavery. In more recent times, we were reminded, some of Birmingham’s congregations had not welcomed immigrants into their ranks, leading to a legacy of broken relationships and a poor testimony to the vision of Christian unity.
The landmark service represented another step on the ‘Time4Change’ journey, which began in the summer of 2020 following the tragic death of George Floyd. The outcry following Floyd’s death led to a new conversation among leaders from Birmingham’s historic, Black-led and new Churches, resulting in the Birmingham Charter in the autumn of 2020. The Charter aims to eradicate racism within the city’s Christian community, so that it can be a beacon of light and a model of hope among the city’s wider communities. Through the Time4Change journey, relationships among Christian leaders have been built and a renewed vision for the unity of the body of Christ in Birmingham has emerged.
The challenge for Birmingham’s Church leaders and church members is to build on the success of the Racial Reconciliation, Repentance and Restoration service by building strong inter-Church relationships and ensuring that every member of the body of Christ in the city is welcomed, whatever their racial background.
Watch the full video of the 18 October Racial Reconciliation service in Birmingham.
Read the story of Birmingham’s Time4Change.