What made me realise I'd become a community activist

I remember vividly the news bulletins in 1972. Ugandan leader Idi Amin expelled around 50,000 Asians from his country. It was appalling. We lived to the very west of London. Many of those who were expelled settled in Southall, which was just a couple of miles from where we lived.

Within a few months we began to see bewildered young Asian children coming to our junior school. I do remember how they would tell me how cold they were at school – the freezing winters and school-uniform shorts didn't help.

Many of these youngsters became my friends. I remember how much I admired them and their hard-working families. I remember how peaceful they were – especially in the face of some of the racism they encountered. I also remembered how hard the kids worked at school.

Steve Morris has been welcomed by his Punjabi community.

So it felt a bit like coming home when I became vicar of St Cuthbert's North Wembley – a largely Hindu parish in north-west London – all these years later. I have found myself reminded again of the many virtues of this amazing community.

At our memory café someone invited me to come and speak to the Brent Punjabi Association up the road in Sudbury Town. And what a treat it was. There were about 25 ladies present, mostly over 60. Many of them already come to memory café, but my task was to speak on building community and see if we could encourage even more to come.

At the end of the talk we got talking about our life stories. I told the Punjabi Association about growing up in London and my memories of 1972. And then the women began to tell me their amazing stories. At least half had been thrown out of Uganda in 1972 and made a new life here. They explained how hard they had worked. How much they loved this country and how their children had gone on to do 'very worthwhile' jobs.

What struck me was the sea of smiling faces and the beautiful welcome I got. Because of where I grew up I felt just a little bit part of their story. It feels like things have come full circle – and full circles have the habit of being Godly.

At school there were some hard-core people who gave my Asian friends a terrible time. I used to hate it. But at the time I felt there was so little that I could do. I do remember the murder of Blair Peach at an anti-National Front rally in Southall and the police coming into our school looking for information.

I could not help my friends very much back then. But I can now. Our memory café proclaims God's love of all people, the cherishing of multi-ethnic communities and reaches out in friendship, esteem and thankfulness to all. I don't think there was anything like it when I was growing up. Who knows, if there was, the world might have been a bit different then.

As I walk round the streets of my parish I am always getting stopped by Hindu friends for a chat. I feel like I am part of this community. I am honoured to be here and to be their priest.

When I was last on Radio London doing my monthly review of the newspapers the host described me as 'a priest and community activist'. I had never thought of myself like this. But I now think that she was on to something. We live out our Christian vocations as part of community and as community-builders. We pray 'your Kingdom come on earth...' Our rainbow community in this parish is a small foretaste of what is to come. Thank God.

Rev Steve Morris is the parish priest of St Cuthbert's North Wembley. Before being a priest he was a writer and ran a brand agency. In the 1980s he tried to become a pop star. Follow him on Twitter @SteveMorris214

Lifestyle