Over sixty people gathered in West Bromwich last night to meet the new Bishop of Lichfield, Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave and hear about the ways people of black and minority ethnic (BAME) groups can be encouraged to consider their vocations in the Church of England.
From its earliest beginnings, the Christian faith in England has been a multi-ethnic melee: it began with Saxons, Britons, a French princess and Italian monks! said Bishop Michael. This Diocese of Lichfield is a case in point: St Chad was a migrant from Northumbria (that had just been at bloody war with the Mercia that he came to) of Irish heritage to an area of Saxons and Welsh natives.
In Southwark, which Ive just moved from, we were enriched by many black majority congregations. But there, as here, we struggled to draw out new priests from among those congregations.
He went on to describe the challenges with three words: visibility, purpose and organisation.
With these we can move forwards to an inclusive and diverse Church in order to be a blessing to the world.
He was welcomed to West Bromwich by Revd Pam Daniel, vicar of St Philips and Revd Preb Carl Ramsay, vicar of Pelsall.
Don't let's just ask what the diocese can do to enable BAME vocations Carl said. Let's ask what we can be doing ourselves. we need to constantly monitor where we are at so we can measure our progress.
Bishop Michael has had his own experience of being in an ethnic minority setting. I spent two years as an assistant priest in Japan and that taught me a lot about the challenges of living and ministering in a dominant culture that was not my own.
God always speaks in the vernacular: at Pentecost, he spoke through the Holy Spirit to people of all nations in their mother tongue; God communicates through our diversity and differences. A monocultural church is seriously deficient and I rejoice that Lichfield Diocese is not like that and I will rejoice more when it's even less like that. Our mission is renewed by the contribution of Christians from other parts of world or with a heritage from other parts of the world.