Long walk to justice
Interview with Richard Reddie
Richard Reddie is Director of Justice and Inclusion at Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. He has edited Race for Justice: The struggle for equality and inclusion in British and Irish churches, a collection of 14 essays on racial justice in the different Churches, published by Monarch in August. He spoke to Stephen Tomkins in October.
Looking back to the Windrush generation of 1948 to 1973, what impact does the unwelcome that people received still have on Black communities today in the UK?
I think the Churches were very, very slow to respond to the Windrush scandal. I remember being made aware of it in early 2017, and the Church really didn’t do anything until late 2018, 2019.
And what’s fascinating about the Windrush scandal is that it has been community organisations and community leaders, not Church leaders, who have been at the forefront of the justice campaign. Churches have been playing catch up, to be honest. The Church has been one of the greatest beneficiaries of that movement of people, but they haven’t affirmed it.
The former Bishop of Rochester, the Revd Dr Michael Nazir Ali, once said: ‘Had it not been for the Windrush generation, the Church of England would have been in a perilous situation.’ (He’s an interesting character. But that’s what he said.) But when the Church talks about that movement, it’s never celebrated. It never says: ‘Thank God for the input of the Windrush generation, the way they’ve helped to revitalise the Church and helped to change the spiritual climate in this country.’ The Black Pentecostal congregations do celebrate Windrush. It’s 75 years next year, but it’s also the 70th anniversary of the New Testament Church of God, and the Church of God of Prophecy. Those Churches come straight out of the Windrush experience, and they’re telling their churches that they need to celebrate not only their 70th anniversary, but also the anniversary of Windrush. There’s a national service being organised next year to mark it. But the Churches don’t see it as a phenomenon that they can really get behind and say: ‘This is brilliant.’
There were a lot of people who were connected to the Church who were actually caught up in the Windrush scandal, yet it took some people I know who were very vocal on this to speak out first before Church leaders found their voice and their moral compass.
Racism is still seen in Church. It hasn’t gone away. It’s a lot subtler than it was back in the Windrush era. It’s not as crude or cruel as it was, but it’s still there…
This is an extract from an article published in the November 2022 edition of Reform