16 July 2021
Many England football fans have had reason this week to feel both proud and ashamed, and I count myself among them. We are proud of the team: for getting to the final of Euro 2020, for playing such attractive football, for the unity and humility the players have displayed – more a team and less an assembly of superstars than I can remember.
We are also ashamed of those who have poured racial abuse on the three players who missed penalties. It is hard to deny that these abusers are somehow part of the England football world, however much we might wish they were not. And there has been much soul-searching this week about where such abuse comes from and what can be done about it.
When Black Lives Matter rose to prominence, it was tempting to imagine that racism was an American problem. This makes it clear that it is also an English and British problem. I learned this week of the racism that black nurses experienced in the early days of the NHS. They had heard of this wonderful new health service and had come to help, and yet white patients refused see them.
Against this background I rejoice that our church family is more and more international and multicultural. A glance through the Prayer Guide shows that we represent around eighteen different nationalities – a glimpse and a precious foretaste of the multitude John speaks of in Revelation 7: “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”
It is not that racial distinctions have evaporated among God’s people – any more than other distinctions have – but they are no longer decisive and should no longer separate us from one another. So, Paul says in Galatians 3 that “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
It is genuinely a joy to be part of an increasingly diverse church family. I also wonder whether we could do better. Who do we find ourselves sitting with in church and speaking to after the service? Who do we invite into our homes? (I know such things have seemed strange during the pandemic). Who in the church family do we count as our particular friends? Who is in leadership in our church?
Father, thank you for adopting me into your family. Help me to love every one of my brothers and sisters in the way that you do. Amen.
Chris Hobbs, Senior Minister