Windrush Day: 'essential that we continue to share our stories'
There were many Windrush celebrations in and out of London this year, but All Nations Baptist Church felt it was important to thank God for all that has been achieved over the decades, despite the struggles, writes Beverley Hillman
22nd June 2019, was declared National Windrush Day by the government, to celebrate the contribution of the Windrush Generation and their descendants. We also salute those who had campaigned tirelessly over the years for this day to be recognised.
This year All Nations Baptist Church (Clapham), decided on the theme of Windrush 71 for our service. Last year we celebrated and commemorated Windrush 70 and the anniversary. What had happened one year on?
As we celebrated, we also reflected on the Windrush scandal and those who had been affected by it. It was important to celebrate those who had made a landmark in the history of Britain. Remembering those who came before the Windrush and their contribution. The pioneers who took a leap of faith into the unknown, as they set sail on the Empire Windrush. Those who answered the call to come to Britain and help rebuild it after the second World War. Those who arrived at Tilbury Docks, Essex in 1948.
There were many Windrush celebrations in and out of London this year, but our church felt it was important to have a service and thank God for all that had been achieved over the decades, despite the struggles.
The congregation, were given copies of our Windrush questionnaire, asking about their experiences of coming to England. Hopefully, we will record their responses in a book at a later date.
Pastor Paul Ogunyemi welcomed everyone and opened the call to worship. He reminded us of our journey with faith Matthew 17:20.
The Praise and Worship team were on ‘fire,’ as the congregational rejoiced and Des Hedman raised the roof with his dynamic dance of praise and movement in worship.
The animated song by our Sunday School, reminded us that God, has ‘the whole world in his hands.’ It was an emotional moment when 9 year old, Sholayemi Dabor (from our Sunday school) sang a solo, ‘Because of who you are, ‘by Vicky Yohe. Congratulations also to the parents Tony and Prudence, who were so proud of their daughter.
Our prayer warrior Sister Ify, led the church in prayers as we prayed for those affected by the Windrush scandal. Those whose had been traumatised and left emotionally and financially devastated. Sister Ify also prayed for our youth and the families traumatised by gun and knife crime. That all would have hope and change would come.
James 2: 17, reminds us of our commitment to prayer with action.
Our church felt it was important to look back at the past, focus on the present and consider what the future will hold for the children of the Windrush generation.
‘Down Memory Lane,’ led by Beverley Hillman, enabled us to reminisce on the importance of the West Indian front room and the role of faith in many Caribbean homes. The memory of the front room, resonated with many and some of the congregation smiled as they remembered that special room. The ornaments, paraffin lamp, crochet on the coffee table, the glass fish, the gram and of course Jim Reeves played on Sunday afternoon. Yes, I remember it well!
My mum had a cabinet full of her best china and crystal, the cabinet and its contents were called ‘touch-me-not!’
For many the West Indian front room also had another purpose. It was also a place for service, prayer and worship and the Bible was in a special place. Sadly, when some of the Windrush generation arrived they were not always welcomed at the local church, so the front room became the ‘church.’ Faith has always played an important part in the lives of Black people and despite trials and tribulations over the centuries and decades it has enabled people to build up resilience, determination and be overcomers.
We honoured our Windrush pioneers in the congregation especially Mrs Cynthia Graham (90 years, a former teacher) and Mr. Vincent Robinson (92 years), formerly in the RAF in World War 2, and a long-standing member of our church.
Debbie reminded us of other Windrush pioneers and their contributions and achievements; Cy Grant, Sam King and Dame Karlene Davis for her contribution to the National Health Service.
Our guest speaker was Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent OBE, who travelled to London for our service. Professor Dunkley-Bent (Jackie as she is known), helped the Duchess of Cambridge deliver both Prince George and Princess Charlotte. She is the first Chief Midwifery Officer in England, the National Maternity Safety Champion for the Department of Health and visiting Professor of Midwifery at Kings College London and London South Bank University.
Jackie delivered an outstanding presentation. She reflected on the contributions of her parents, her upbringing and how it had impacted on her life and achievements today. She encouraged the children of the Windrush generation to work hard, never give up and to continue the legacy of achievement.
A monument is to be erected to honour the Windrush pioneers and champions. Should it be in Waterloo or Brixton? This is an ongoing debate.
After the service was time for fellowship and refreshments, enabling everyone to network and share experiences. A special thank you to all who contributed to our service.
It is essential that we continue to share our stories, document our history and the Windrush legacy for future generations. Lest we forget.
Beverley Hillman is a member of All Nations Baptist Church in Clapham