Giving thanks for people of colour who have inspired us by their lives

All Saints Day on 1 November will be held at St Paul’s Cathedral by a service celebrating people of diverse backgrounds and cultures from the past who give us hope amidst the changes and challenges of our own day. The Revd Canon Tricia Hillas, Canon Pastor of St Paul’s Cathedral, previews the service which also marks the 30th anniversary of the Archbishops’ Council’s Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns.

‘If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants’, said Isaac Newton, recognising the debt he owed to those who had gone before him. On All Saints Day, the church recognises and celebrates the inspired souls, the saints and holy people, whose faithful lives and witness encourage and guide us in our own response to God’s call.

This year at St Paul’s Cathedral, we are delighted to share in a very special marking of All Saints Day. This year, in acknowledgement of the 30th Anniversary of the establishment of CMEAC, (Archbishops’ Council’s Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns), we take the opportunity to give especial thanks for the women and men of colour from around the world who have gone before us. These, our ancestors in faith, now part of the great cloud of witnesses, come from diverse backgrounds and represent many different nationalities and cultures. These black saints inspire us by their lives; giving us hope amidst the changes and challenges of our own day.

One inspiration to us today is Ini Kopuria who founded the Melanesian Brotherhood on 28 October 1925, to bring the Gospel to the remote and dispersed islands of Melanesia. He dedicated his life and his land to God. The Brotherhood quickly grew into one of the largest religious communities in the Anglican Communion and its method of evangelism proved highly effective.

We are delighted that we will be joined by members, partners and supporters of CMEAC, a number of whom will play a part in the service. A young person from St Mary Magdalene Academy, Islington, will read. Christians from a range of backgrounds will lead the congregation in a litany which gives thanks for Holy Ones from many nations including China, India, Uganda, Spain, the United Kingdom, Sweden and the United States; for men and women, for Jew and Gentile.

Mezzo Soprano Melanie Marshall, who counts Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson among her fans and has appeared to great acclaim on Broadway, the West End, Carnegie Hall, the Royal Albert Hall and on TV and radio, will sing, accompanied by Peter Holder, Sub-organist of St Paul’s.

We are hugely indebted to the artist Meg Wroe for the loan of her piece Trinity 2016 based on Rublev’s icon and inspired by the Stepney Racial Diversity Day held earlier this year. This artwork will be on display during the service as an aid for reflection and prayer.

The All Saints communion service at St Paul’s, launches the start of a year of events marking the 30th Anniversary of CMEAC.  The year will be completed in 2017 with the launch of a new publication ‘Inspired Souls – Black Saints and Holy People from around the World’. 

CMEAC works for the full inclusion and participation of people of black and minority ethnic heritage at every level within the Church of England.  Coming together to give thanks for the inspired souls who have gone before us, so we give thanks for the huge contribution made by the very many people of colour who make up such a significant part of the church today – around the world certainly but also most definitely here in the UK. As we go forward we long for the day when the whole church, at every level, will embrace, reflect and celebrate the gift God has given his church and the world in the people of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic heritage.

St Paul’s Cathedral is delighted to share in and to host this service. It builds on work both in the past and in the present which seeks to respond to God’s call for justice and inclusion.

The service takes place on 1 November at 5pm.

The Revd Canon Tricia Hillas
Canon Pastor of St Paul’s Cathedral

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