By John Duffy, Commission Member
I was lucky enough to go to a recent National Justice & Peace networking day in Birmingham, to listen to the Reverend Eve Pitts, – the first Black woman to be ordained priest in the Church of England – talk about being brought up by the Windrush Generation.
Rather than a history or sociology lecture, this was her personal story about observing, respecting and conflicting with her mother and that generation who came to England in the 40s and 50s, with their suitcases full of dreams. Their struggle was the realisation that in having to face the ugliness of hatred there was another journey to be made.
They sang the lament of leaving the familiar, hoped against the realities, and though they achieved so much for themselves and their children, Eve observed that they had become the type of Christian who doesn’t ask questions, who were unwilling to question God, terrified of God. Eve rebelled, declaring that faith and justice are inseparable, and that not facing up to racism meant collusion with the oppressor.
She faced up to racism in her Church, and addressed the issue in 1997 from the pulpit. This led to controversy and the Bishop of Birmingham asked her to resign. The Association of Black Clergy supported her. She began ministry in a community hall and was then offered (by the next bishop of Birmingham) a new parish at Immanuel church in Highter’s Heath, where she worked until her retirement.
God is much bigger than our definition of him, she says, and this determination has formed and sustained her faith, and she continues to minister, and to rock the boat when it is needed.
This summary does not do her justice, as she is a dramatic, dynamic and hilarious speaker. So please take a look at this five minute YouTube clip to inspire and encourage.