Church of England holds minute's silence to remember victims of racism

The Church of England observed a minute's silence during its national online service on Sunday as an act of lamentation over the racism experienced by the Windrush generation and other black and minority ethnic people in the Church and nation.

The service was led by Father Andrew Moughtin-Mumby, Rector of St Peter's Church in Walworth, south east London, where black Anglicans were at one time barred from entering. 

He called racism a "stain on the soul of our Church" and said "we hurt Jesus too" when we use racism or discrimination to hurt people.

Father Andrew, who was born in Jamaica, wore the special 'Windrush Cope' during the service, which features a photo montage illustrating aspects of black history in Britain since the arrival of the Empire Windrush.

In his sermon, Father Andrew lamented the death of George Floyd and other black people while in police custody both in the US and UK, as he called racism one of three pandemics affecting the world right now, the other two being climate change and coronavirus. 

"All three of these pandemics are especially affecting black and minority ethnic people across the world," he said.  

The service was held ahead of Windrush Day on Monday, marking the 72nd anniversary of the arrival of The Empire Windrush, at Tilbury Docks in east London. 

The ship brought Jamaican and other British Commonwealth citizens from the West Indies to help rebuild Britain after the Second World War, but instead of being welcomed, many experienced hostility and racial discrimination.

"Many who came to England experienced horrible racism in society, but also in our parish churches, including here at St Peter's where a very faithful family of Anglicans originally from Barbados...were literally barred by the rector at the time from entering St Peter's Church due to the colour of their black skin," said Father Andrew. 

"They were welcomed in neighbouring parishes, and eventually found a full welcome here in St Peter's. 

"But that racism is a stain on the soul of our Church.  And there is still racism in the Church today, and it is a very serious disease and a sin which I believe each one of us is called to work hard and work urgently to end." 

He went on to say that as the nation marks Windrush Day, "we cannot but lament the awful Windrush Scandal" and the "racism of the UK Home Office".  The Windrush Scandal saw members of the Windrush generation reclassified as illegal immigrants.  This caused some to be deported or barred from re-entering the UK, and to lose their access to the NHS, housing, bank accounts or driving licences. 

"Our lament and sadness should make us want to make a difference, to build a better, fairer Church and world," Father Andrew added before leading the Church in a minute's silence. 

At 11am on Monday, bishops, clergy, cathedrals and parishes across the Church of England will observe a two-minute silence to lament the suffering of the Windrush generation and wider issues of racism in society.