Trinity Church Enews: A new way to keep in touch (2020/10/01)

WELCOME …

TO OUR NEW E-NEWSLETTER 

Trinity Church created this new communication as a way to share ideas, foster connections among our community, and keep members and friends aware of how Trinity is working to fulfill its mission.

Our inaugural issue introduces a new video conversation with our chaplain, Ben Harding, and insight on Black Lives Matter from a Ghanian preacher.

WHAT IT’S LIKE …

PASTOR BEN VISITS IMPRISIONED REFUGEES 

In Part One of our discussion with Trinity’s chaplain, Ben Harding describes his visit with an Iranian refugee in prison in Denmark. Next month: Part Two…

OPENING MY EYES

A GHANIAN PERSPECTIVE ON BLACK LIVES MATTER

By Alison Heal, a member of Trinity Church Lyon exploring a vocation to full-time ministry

God has been opening my eyes, recently. If you’ve been following the news lately, you may have been having similar experiences. I’m ashamed that it took video evidence of the death of George Floyd to wake me up to the reality that Black Lives Matter, (in the sense that all lives matter, but black lives are sometimes treated as lesser). Of course I knew that this was an issue, but what was there for me (a white Englishwoman in France) to do about it?

I resorted to my evolving formula for situations which make me uncomfortable:

  1. Pray and study – ask God about the situation, study the Bible for His words on and around the subject, study books, articles, podcasts etc on the topic. Pray on.
  2. LISTEN – having listened to God, He seems to direct me to listen to other people. General George Marshall’s approach seems spot on. His ‘Formula for handling people’ goes:

“Listen to the other person’s story.
Listen to the other person’s full story.
Listen to the other person’s full story first.

With that in mind, I studied and prayed, and prayed and studied. Then I had the courage to ask my African fellow preacher, whom we’ll call Peter.

Peter is such a bastion of respectability that it had never really crossed my mind that he’d experience racism here in France. Surely everyone would sense that Godly glow coming from him? No one could find him threatening or suspicious, could they?

Well, God, and Peter, opened my eyes. Peter told me, “Most of us Africans are constantly adjusting to ensure we don’t create negative perceptions”.

He told me that he and most of his African friends cross the road when they see they’re going to have to pass elderly white people, because often those people look frightened and clutch their bags. So our African church members cross to the other side, “to create an atmosphere of peace for elderly white people”.

He went on, “We want the freedom to drive without being on the lookout for police cars, or the freedom to wear my hoodie early in the morning (aged 50) without a police car making a U-turn and driving slowly behind me for a while before stopping me, amongst others.”

Peter spoke about wanting to confront blatant or subtle discrimination, but, “We have learned over the years to ignore and carry on lest we be labelled the angry black man again (or even have the police called on us.” He added, “Often the labelling is psychologically far more damaging than the act of racism itself!”

But Peter also confirmed that listening is the right way to begin. “We are eager to share our own experiences but don’t know if you’re interested. Asking tells us you might be interested in standing up to blatant or subtle racism. Please listen to us without feeling the need to apologise on behalf of the perpetrators. Your quiet resolve to speak up next time is all we need”.

Here at TCL we are an international, multi-ethnic Christian community. It’s easy for European church members like me to assume that everyone in the congregation is experiencing equal benefits of living in France. It’s also easy for me to assume that the way I do church suits everyone in the congregation, and that ‘colour-blindness’ is the best way forward.

But God has opened my eyes. Our world is not colour-blind, as Peter’s stories of everyday racism show. And God is not colour-blind, in the sense that He created our wonderful diversity and expects us to rejoice in it with Him, not ignore it.

At TCL, we often ask God to open our eyes to look beyond the superficiality of a happy Sunday service, to concern for the reality of life for each member. A real Christian community cares, listens, talks, discovers the daily realities behind the Sunday smiles, and shares burdens throughout the week.

Anti-racism campaigners talk about the importance of white allies. Allies need to listen more than they speak, to learn more than they teach, to ask more than they advise. I wonder where God is going to take me next, in this journey of listening to Him, to Peter, and to all my friends of colour at TCL?