Review of the video 'One' by CEEC

Out of Many , One People 13

Welcome. This weekly blog aims to help church leaders develop churches which gather people 'from every nation, tribe, people and language', by means of comments, theology, reviews and news. I really would welcome comments, reactions and criticisms. Please enter them in the speech bubble at the end.
Review of the Video ‘One: A biblical discussion on race, ethnicity and justice.’

This is a 33-minute video produced by the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC). It comes in the shape of a roundtable (literally) discussion by five participants of different backgrounds: African Caribbean, white English, African, South Asian, and white South African. Additionally, there is material that can be printed for both a 3 or 4 weeks discussion group, or a one session meeting. There are also separate 2½ minute reflections from two of the participants, Jason Roach (who chairs the discussion), and Esther Prior. The latter’s gentleness, honesty, humility and perceptiveness cry out for her to be heard in every part of the Church of England – the ‘institution kind of assumes you are not there’.

Overall it is a useful resource for helping churches to think about race. The discussion format means that it can seem rather choreographed, but it does ensure that the different members together cover the central biblical material. The main verses are set out on the associated hand-outs. I liked how the story of Peter vision of God’s inclusive purposes in Acts 10, yet followed by his failure to fully grasp the implications of that in Galatians 2 was well drawn out.

A wider range of both personal responses and issues of church life are covered, though the six successive themes listed at the bottom of the screen didn’t seem to cover the material being discussed that aptly. Questions of our personal response, such as recognising white privilege, repentance (including repentance for keeping quiet), listening and weeping, or calling out racist remarks were all covered. The longest contribution was Esther Prior’s superb 3 minute summary of the Christian gospel which was imbued with a rich, indefinable African-ness. (It starts at 22:35). There were also helpful references to church life, for example in the role of the leader to create an environment where it was safe for people to talk about their experiences. The recognition of the universality of sin was a significant counter-cultural stress in our present context.

The videos main limitation came from its format. Inevitably it focused on words, ideas and concepts, but the talking heads approach limited its range. I think it too readily assumed that bible verses on their own without the context of relationships and personal experience would bring about change. The format made it hard to give full weight to history (the legacy of slavery was barely mentioned). Similarly it would need a more documentary approach to explore the varying contexts in which churches can minister, and the tensions that can arise. Mark Murthen’s comment that multi-ethnic churches can be ‘messy’ would have benefitted  with real life case studies. Perhaps symbolic of the ‘head’ approach was that two books were referred to, but no music, films or the vast array of available videos (see under Add Ons).

All in all this is a resource which can be useful in all churches. Discussion groups would benefit from the stress in the material that individuals and churches need to be considering how we then respond and take matters forward.

Add ons

In the review above I mention that it would be useful to also refer people to videos. But which ones? I would like to compile a list of lectures, debates, music videos, films – anything in fact that would be illuminating for our understanding and ministry in a multi-ethnic society. But, please, I need your help. Rack your brains and your Youtube playlist and send me details of what you think might be helpful. Be original. And use the bubble icon below to send me your suggestions (by 9th Feb). Thank you.

Quote of the week:

From ‘The Epistle to Diognetus’ by ‘Mathetes’ (disciple), chapter 5; probably late 2nd century.

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. . . But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. 

(The whole letter, especially chapter 5, is well worth reading).