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Racial justice pilgrims visit Anglican Communion Office during tour of London

Posted on: October 20, 2023 5:58 PM

On Monday (16 October) more than 70 pilgrims from the Church of England’s Diocese of London rested their weary legs at the Anglican Communion Office in Notting Hill during a pilgrimage taking in historic sites in history of race in UK capital. They were taking part in “Pilgrimage for Racial Justice – A Journey of Lament and Praise”, led by the Bishop of Willesden in the Diocese of London, Lusa Nsenga Ngoy.  

The pilgrims set off from the Windrush Memorial after prayers led by the Bishop of Croydon in the Diocese of Southwark, London, Rosemarie Mallett. They stopped, prayed and reflected along their journey at specific “Stations” relating to key Black figures in British history. October marks Black History Month in the UK calendar. It is a time where the nation celebrates Black British people, communities and culture for their significant contributions over the years. 

Staff at the Anglican Communion Office (ACO) welcomed the pilgrims who had already stopped at Saint Margaret’s Church in Westminster, where abolitionist, author and freed slave, Olaudah Equiano was baptised. Fellow abolitionist Ignatius Sancho married his wife Ann Osborne at Saint Margaret’s. 

At the ACO, the pilgrims were greeted by Bishop Jo Bailey Wells in the chapel. She said: “what a delight to welcome a throng of London pilgrims led by Bishop Lusa to the ACO today as part of their Racial Pilgrimage. Whereas much of their route navigated between significant locations relating to particular people and events in history – sites that include circumstances for lament as well as courageous stories for celebration – it felt as if this stop was different.  

“We spoke about the significance of our global Communion as a force for racial reconciliation looking forwards – not so much looking back but working for the future. The ACO services the Anglican world, which reaches across 165 countries: that’s a fraction yet a foretaste of the vision in Revelation, where every tribe and tongue is gathered around the throne of grace. 

“There, our differences become a USP in terms of the texture and harmony of the kingdom of heaven. There, injustice is sorted – yet unity does not mean uniformity. The diversity is part of the glory. . . This is the story in which we live and the purpose for which we serve! 

“We also thanked God for Elizabeth Ferrard, founder of the Community of Saint Andrew and all the courageous women who joined her and followed after, for their determined collective persistence in challenging injustice  – and for loaning us our beautiful chapel and offices here at Saint Andrew’s House.” 

After lunch and refreshments, the pilgrims continued on their journey. They stopped, prayed and reflected at the spot where Kelso Cochran, a 32 year old man from Antigua, was murdered on 17 May 1959. His murder has never been solved.  This was the climax of racial hatred which was rampant in this Notting Hill area of London at the time. 

The pilgrims stopped at Grenfell Tower where 71 people died as fire ravaged the 24-storey building of residential flats 14 June 2017.  Prayers were said for all those who died. The pilgrims reflected on the life of Gambian-British artist Khadijah Saye. 

The pilgrims ended their journey at Saint Clements Church with an act of commitment to continue the calling to the work in the ministry of social justice and reconciliation. 

Sophia Jones from the ACO communications team spoke to some of the pilgrims. Here’s what they said. 

Bishop Lusa Nsenga Ngoy
Bishop of Willesden in the Diocese of London

This has been a real gift. There is often the sense that when we engage in issues of Racial Justice, they are in formal places. But the opportunity of walking and conversing and enabling our stories to intersect in a way that is not choreographed creates a sense of freedom and generosity. When you read the Gospels Jesus was always on the go and encountering people as he walked. There is something about travelling at a human pace that enables more unhurried encounters.  A Japanese theologian once said of the encounter that Jesus had with the disciples of Emmaus that God walks at a pace of love. There is something in the travelling at pace. Something I want to cultivate. Walking with intent and inviting people to bring the intention they bring on these pilgrimages. We are transformed. We want to do for the foreseeable future. 

Carolyn Blackford

I was born here [in the UK] and my parents came in the 1950s. I’ve heard their stories of how life was for them. This generation are now in their 80s and 90s. At my church, Saint Nicholas in Perivale, a vast majority of the population are elderly and black. We started a group for them to share their stories. We also held a Windrush Service. 

Annette Cole
Mothers’ Union branch leader, Saint Michael’s Tokyngton, Wembley 

I walked from Waterloo. It has been inspirational. This is the first time that I am hearing about these heroes. We think we know something, but there is so much more. I am so happy I came. The walk is challenging. I came to the UK from Jamaica in 1958. I was seven years old. I never knew about Black History. I only started to learn about it when my children started learning.

Linda Walker
Mothers’ Union member 

The walk has been very hard at times. But it has been important for me to learn about the people, many who were hurt. I am loving the walk and learning about what black people have gone through over the years.

Judith Shepherd
Saint Mary’s, Harrow on the Hill 

I am a PCC member and also a Deanery Synod representative. I understood that racial justice is a big part of the Church of England strategy. I am in a church that doesn’t have as much diversity as I would like. I wanted to go on this walk and talk with people and understand what we can do to bring people of different cultures to our church. This has been a very well organised, informative, inspiring and good day out. 

Robin Whitburn
Historian and co-founder and author of Doing Justice to History, a Black History resource. 

The Bishop of Willesden wanted to do a pilgrimage for each of the key priorities of the Diocese of London. For example, safer churches, growing younger, and racial justice.  He decided to do racial justice in Black History Month. I offered to present stations of the pilgrimage by selecting stories that would connect with places. We did it chronologically starting with the 18th Century and focusing on people like Olaudah Equiano, Ignatius Sancho and Ottobah Cugoano who campaigned for the abolition of slavery. This was a positive beginning at the start of the pilgrimage. We are now heading to the spot where Kelso Cochran was murdered in the 20th Century. The positivity didn’t continue and there was a decline in the 1950s and 1960s. But also, black leaders started to emerge like Claudia Jones and Rhaune Laslett.

Stephanie Ajayi
Racial Justice Capacity Building Consultant, Diocese of London

It is amazing that we are spending this time to know those that have gone on before us. They gave their lives. It reminds us to think of those who didn’t make it and that their stories were untold. This is giving them a voice. 

Kundan Minhas
Saint George’s Southall 

It is really wonderful to learn about the history of black people in Britain and how hard it was for them over the years.  While I was learning about all these events happening, it made my heart sad. The only thing I can say is sorry from my heart. We are now living in a modern age where we still have racial justice issues. What we have to do as a community and as Christians is to understand that we are all human beings and made in the image of God.  

The Revd Delorine Green
Vicar of Saint Clement with Saint Peter, Dulwich 

I have been surprised at the connectiveness of everything and of the people that I know. My parents were Windrush generation and I am second generation. They had hopes and dreams and through this I wanted to see Britain through their eyes, what it was like when