Walworth church congregation demands action on racism

A church congregation has joined the chorus of demands for more action on racism.

The rector of St Peter’s Church on Liverpool Grove in Walworth, whose members are mostly BAME, has said he is shocked and saddened by the death of George Floyd.

Father Andrew Moughtin-Mumby said: “We stand in solidarity with people of faith and people of goodwill around the world to say loud and clear: Black Lives Matter!”

St Peter’s Church has its own history of racism: a family of faithful Anglicans from Barbados were turned away from St Peter’s in 1961, by the rector at the time. The family’s story was told at the General Synod of the Church of England in February 2020 when the Archbishop of Canterbury said how sorry and ashamed he was for the historic racism in the Church of England.

He described the church of the time as being still “deeply institutionally racist” and he apologised for his own lack of urgent action on this question.

On Monday 8th June at 11am, two weeks on from Mr Floyd’s murder, with full social distancing the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, was in St Peter’s Churchyard at Father Andrew’s invitation, to take the knee for eight minutes and 46 seconds – the length of time the police officer knelt on Mr Floyd’s neck, during which time he died.

Fr Andrew said: “His life was woefully unvalued in an act of racist murder colluded in by other police officers.”

The congregation was joined by children and staff from St Peter’s Church of England Primary School who asked if they could join at the same time from the school playground. Other members of St Peter’s joined in via a live-stream.

There was an act of lament, of solidarity with people of colour everywhere, of prayer for the repose of the souls of all people of colour who have died in police custody in the UK and in the USA, and of quiet protest against the racist structures of the Church of England and of our government as revealed in the Windrush scandal.

Fr Andrew added: “It was a symbolic act which we know must be followed with our own action to work for a Church and nation with more equal structures, and to work against racism and discrimination of any kind wherever we find it. Black Lives Matter.”

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