Nottingham churches unite in prayer and action against racial injustice
At 9.25pm on Monday 8th June, churches across Nottingham came together in a moment of prayer, reflection and solidarity, responding as a united church to the killing of George Floyd in the United States precisely two weeks before.
Praying and pledging
Christians across the city were invited to pray and light a candle in their windows – symbolising grief for the racial injustices in our world, alongside hope for a different future. The candles also symbolised the pledge of individuals and churches to examine their own hearts and attitudes, to commit to listening to their neighbours and to work for unity across the whole church in Nottingham (read the full text of the #nottschurchespledge at the bottom of this page).
“In response to an idea originated and developed by Trent Vineyard, a church in the city, we wanted to encourage people across Nottingham to pray, in particular for those who have been impacted and hurt through racism,” explained Mark Hopkins from Nottingham City Prayer. “We also wanted to pray for a hope and a better future – for a world where we see God’s best in action.”
Change is needed
“We wanted to pray, but also to pledge to be the change that we are praying for” Mark continued.
“We didn’t just want to do this one act – we wanted to put something in place practically to keep that conversation going.
“This Thursday 11th June, the Nottingham City Prayer monthly prayer meeting (now online) will be focused on a conversation with a number of the black majority church leaders in the city, who will talk together with us and lead us in prayer. This will involve prayers of forgiveness, reconciliation and healing, as well as praying for the church in this season.”
On Friday 5th June, three days before this act of solidarity took place, a statement calling for change was released by Nottingham’s Majority Black Led Churches (MBLC).
MBLC’s leaders said they had been "appalled to see the dreadful video" showing the final moments of George Floyd's life, adding "We cannot remain silent in the midst of such injustice." This was reported by local online paper Nottinghamshire Live, who detailed three specific calls to action being made by MBLC leaders.
Church leaders from across the city, alongside leaders of other faith communities, supported the statement, calling for an end to prejudice.
As Nottinghamshire Live reported, Pastor Dr Ezekiel Alawale, Chair of the Majority Black Led Churches (MBLC) Nottingham and Pastor of God’s Vineyard Church, said: "Prejudice, injustice and institutional racism in our multicultural society will only breed mistrust, unrest and violence. Let’s talk the talk and walk the walk for the common good. Lasting peace and progress will only result from such fairness to all."
Pastor Vincent Ibikunle, Redeemed Christian Church of God, Covenant Restoration Assembly Nottingham, said: “We cannot deny that institutional racism still exists strongly in the UK also and it’s time to put an end to this”, with Bishop Lincoln Davis of the New Testament Church of God Nottingham saying: “It is sad to see the Law abuse the Law. It is time for change."
Right Reverend Patrick McKinney - Bishop of Nottingham, on behalf of the Catholic community in Nottingham and the East Midlands - said: “I pray that we may learn to respect, accept and live alongside one another in joyful, peaceful harmony. All forms of racism must be challenged.”
And Pastor Clive Foster, from The Pilgrim Church Nottingham, added: “We all have a duty to stand up and speak out against racial injustice – silence is no longer an option."
A genuine unity
Sharing the vision behind Nottingham City Prayer, Mark reflects: “Jesus’ prayer in John 17 was that the church may be one, and when the church is united, we’re able to be a voice of unity in our city.
“It’s sad to think that we as churches have often ignored or overlooked racial injustices, and not spoken up when we should have. Many of our local churches are working hard to ensure that they reflect the whole of their congregation, and that we engage and reflect that diversity in all that we do.”
The story of Nottingham City Prayer
Nottingham City Prayer began about four years ago with the vision of seeing churches praying together. Their monthly morning prayer meetings see 130-140 people gather each month (now online, given the coronavirus lockdown), and they’ve also run Thy Kingdom Come events gathering 1,200 people to pray together. Their vision is to see ”Christ’s church united, God’s power released, our city blessed”.
One initiative to emerge from this unity movement is ‘The 100 Homes Campaign’, encouraging families in churches across the city to become foster carers. As their website explains: “We learned that there were around 630 children in care, with more being added all the time, and that the council only had enough foster carers for around half of them! We also learned that there were many Christians already active in this area of city life and that if we joined together we could do much more than we could apart.
“As we started to act, one of the first things we sought to do was to recruit 100 new foster homes from the church in Nottingham - The 100 Homes Campaign. To date, 17 new homes have been approved with another four who are currently going through the six-month approval process.”
Reflecting on the power of church unity, especially in this time of a global pandemic, Mark – a member of the Nottingham City Prayer leadership team – says: “Because of the sense of partnership and unity across the church in Nottingham, we’ve been able to have greater engagement with the local council.
“When the coronavirus crisis struck, the church was there at the table talking with local councils about emergency provision, because we were united and running foodbanks together. It is the church speaking to the council, rather than lots of churches, and it is really encouraging to see the church engaged in that conversation across our city and our borough councils.”
The full call to prayer and pledge from Nottingham City Prayer
Many of us have been saddened and angered by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week and the events that have followed.
And these events highlight the fact that we live in a world where racism, prejudice and bigotry remain. Around the world people have been gathering to protest against this continuing injustice in a number of ways.
It was 9.25 pm (Minneapolis time) on Monday 25 May, when George Floyd was pronounced dead. At 9.25 pm (UK time) this coming Monday 8 June we are inviting people from across Nottingham and beyond, whilst we remain physically distanced from one another, to gather in a moment of prayer, reflection, solidarity and unity.
In this moment, we invite you in your home to pray and to light a candle and place it in your window as a symbol and a pledge:
As a symbol of:
grief as we think first of the family and friends of George Floyd and as we reflect on continuing injustice in our world; and
hope for a future – a future where the evil of racism is banished from our society and our streets.
As a pledge to:
examine our own hearts and reflect on our own attitudes and indifference;
listen to and to love our neighbours of all races and all cultures; and
speak out against injustice where we see it and choose to be the community that we long for.
As a public mark of your pledge, please post a photo of your candle on social media with the hashtag #nottschurchespledge