Giving thanks for the Windrush Generation

On 22 June 1948 the HMT Empire Windrush docked in Tilbury, Essex, carrying 429 passengers from the Caribbean to fill labour shortages in Britain. These people, many of whom had served in the British armed forces in World War Two, became known as the Windrush Generation. They played a vital role in rebuilding the battered post-War British economy. Many became manual workers, drivers, cleaners, and nurses in the newly-established NHS. When we were first married, descendants of the Windrush Generation were our neighbours in the inner city community in which we lived and our children were friends.

In recent years some from the Windrush Generation have suffered injustice in Britain. The 1971 Immigration Act gave Commonwealth citizens living in Britain indefinite leave to remain – the permanent right to live and work in Britain. However, in April 2018, it emerged that the UK Home Office had kept no records of those granted permission to stay, and had not issued the paperwork they needed to confirm their status. In 2010 it had also destroyed landing cards belonging to Windrush migrants. Those affected were unable to prove they were in the country legally and were prevented from accessing healthcare, work and housing and some were threatened with deportation. At least 83 people who had arrived before 1973 were wrongly deported. It was a disgraceful episode which apologies and financial compensation have only partly addressed.

Many of the Windrush Generation had a strong Christian faith but they were not always received well in English churches. I remember meeting a West Indian man who had been a sides-man in a large Anglican church in Jamaica. When he came to England he and his family started attending their local Church of England. After a few weeks the vicar had a word with him and asked if they would stop attending the church because some members of the congregation were not used to seeing black people in their church. This was a disgrace and a denial of the teaching of Jesus. To their credit many of those of the Windrush Generation responded with great grace when they were treated so shamefully.

The Windrush Generation has enriched Britain. One of the ways this is seen is in the vibrant faith of Black churches. Attendance at these churches is three times their proportion in the population and includes many young people. In London 48% of all churchgoers are now Black. In the London Borough of Southwark there are 240 Black Majority Churches with over 20,000 attending. Christians in Black Majority Churches joyfully worship God and delight in their Saviour Jesus. Their faith is lived out in their daily lives and sustains them when they experience trials in life. They believe Britain needs re-evangelising and are committed to doing so.

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