Racial Justice Sunday Dr Steven Horne Feb. 2024


Racial Justice Sunday: A Time for Glory?

From the light of a baby in Bethlehem to a crucified man surrounded by darkness, Glory shines.

Glory shines in every church that loves difference. Glory cannot be made by us, nor can it be destroyed by us; Glory exists because God is.

Archbishop Justin Welby’s rousing yet considered sermon at the recent Racial Justice Sunday service (11th Feb. 2024) started by driving home the message that God’s glory is all around us.

Seated in the ‘Lantern’ in Westminster Abbey, a place that had seen Royalty wed and Monarchy depart, it was hard not to see ‘glory’ in pillars that stretched toward the heavens, windows that beckoned in the winter sun, and a Holy Table framed by images of the Last Supper. But for all the majesty that had been put in place for Majesties, the real glory on display at this service was the Spirit of God; indeed, the spirit of the event in which we were gathering.

On an equally sunny winter day, 1955, in Montgomery Alabama, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man. Park’s surroundings that day were, to the naked

eye, far less glorious. However, the Spirit of glory – the same spirit that causes hearts to race, hairs to stand up, and lives to change, was about to be unleashed. The subsequent movement would change history as we know it. Change can hurt and glory can often look like something that challenges our comfortability. Martin Luther King knew this. Speaking during the initial waves of these racial tides of change, King said “If we are wrong, justice is a lie and love has no meaning”.

Archbishop Justin reminded the congregation, “there is nothing mundane about justice at any level in any society. To be unjust is to turn our backs on God”.

My official capacity on the day was as a Council Member for CMEAC (Centre for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns), and as a representative of ‘GRT Friendly Churches’ (a group working for understanding & co-operation between churches and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people). More than this though, I was there as someone of Romany Gypsy heritage. Even more so, I was there as someone who wants to see the glory of the risen Christ in every sphere of our society, permeating the tapestry of our togetherness that exists in His image.

As Revd. Guy Hewitt (the Church of England’s Racial Justice Director) recently said in a Church Times article, ‘Loving our neighbours is an imperative, not an option’.

This initiative and commitment towards racial justice was, as ++ Justin rightly and importantly identified, not something derived from Marxism. I raised a wry smile of agreement as ++ Justin Racial Justice Sunday Dr Steven Horne Feb. 2024 foretold the inevitable rejections of those putting forward the work and messages of racial justice, and how their characters etc. will likely come under attack. Whilst my messages and work over the past couple of years had for the most part been received well, the reality is that many Gypsies and Travellers daily have their words and their messages questioned simply because they are Gypsies and Travellers! Societies seem to love their own stories but often reject realities of other people’s narratives.

By listening to others, by placing the voices of the othered into spaces where their narratives can speak of glories from their contexts, is necessary. Again, the message from the pulpit reminded those who would hear that “where we do not recognise the glory in each other, as we all struggle against sin and seek to proclaim the glory of Jesus, there we fall short and must fear”. The prayers offered afterwards by Lord Paul Boateng eloquently and decisively drove home a petition of repentance and a desire for loving the Lord through acts of justice, “not as a sentiment alone but as strategy to bring home [God’s] Kingdom”.

The reality of tangible impact over sentiment hit home for me as Lord Boateng read a short list of Saints from diverse origins who had grown the Kingdom, one of whom was someone I wrote a chapter on in a book entitled ‘Every Tribe: Stories of Diverse Saints’ (Edited by Sharon Prentis).

Blessed Ceferino Giménez Malla was a Spanish Romani whose personal worship started and ended in Christ. I wonder what he would think if he had heard his name echo through Westminster Abbey. I wonder what other names that many of us simply don’t know could and should be heard echoing messages of glory among such structures. I wonder, as this message began, if we are ready, and willing, for a time of glory.

Dr Steven Horne.

Theologian, & Ordinand (final year; Diocese of Canterbury).
X / Twitter: @DrStevenHorne