John Proctor and I were invited to the Spirit of Windrush thanksgiving service in Westminster Abbey on Friday, the 70th anniversary of the arrival of MV Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks with over 500 women and men from the Caribbean. These people agreed to emigrate to the UK, at our government’s request, to help us rebuild the UK after the devastation of the 2nd World War.
The service had all the pomp and precision you’d expect from Westminster Abbey but it was infused with lively singing and poignant drama from a group of young, talented black actors. When the Windrush 70th Anniversary Choir began to sing the upbeat anthem, ‘As I travel through this pilgrim land’ it was hard to keep still; heads were bobbing and feet were tapping!
The address by Revd Canon Joel Edwards was both a celebration of the Caribbean contributions to the UK and a reminder that there is still work to be done. In the prayers we were led by the group of actors who each gave thanks for the contributions of named individual black people who had risen to the top of their profession or sport; and this was a long list.
It was good to see the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and the Mayor of London at the service. Their presence both reminded us of the harm, done in our name, to the Windrush Generation through the government’s ‘hostile environment’ policies but also of their recent moves to repair that damage.
The picture above shown is of the cope worn by The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster. The ‘Windrush Cope’ was created by the artist Terry Duffy, and was worn for the first time at this service. It is intended that the cope will be worn by many church leaders and act as a powerful catalyst to future thinking, discussion and debate focused upon racial justice and recognition of Windrush Generations’ outstanding contributions to UK culture.
Well done to the Spirit of Windrush planning group, chaired by Bishop Dr Joe Aldred.