This picture is of Partnership House, Waterloo Road.
Spent lunchtime today watching replica slave ship Zong pass through Tower Bridge, London, to berth for a week or two as a floating slavery exhibition. The ship, used to make the film Amazing Grace that has recently been released, has been hired for this purpose by the Centre for Contemporary Ministry, with some sponsorship by CMS.
It was exciting to see the ship arrive, and I hope to find time to take a look inside.
A couple of short videos if you want to recall the event: the first video is of the Zong approaching tower bridge, escorted by Royal Naval frigate HMS Northumberland, and the second video of the ship passing Tower Bridge.
I have been keen to join in with that spirit of celebration, for the 200th anniversary today of the British abolition of the slave trade. I started this journey with a particular interest in William Wilberforce, and activities organised by CMS such as Free For All. I have been fascinated by the varied responses of African and Afro-Caribbean people in our society, and by the near obsession with who should be apologising for what. I have been pleased to see a growing interest in the even greater amount of slavery today.
Slavery, with its particular examples today of bonded labour and the violence of the trafficking of people to feed the sex trade, is a particular example of one human being abusing power over another. Surely most human beings have at some time suffered abuse from someone more powerful than themselves – whether physical, financial, or institutional. And who, with any power, can honestly say that he has never abused someone else?
It must be sensible to target, one at a time, the worst kind of abuses of power, and so we celebrate the passing of that Act of Parliament in 1807. Yet we are told that there are more people in slavery today than there were then! Presumably this is because our collective heart has still not changed.
The journey that we are on is one of recognsing and coming to terms with the underlying desire to abuse power. Those of us who have not been slaves are likely to have experienced abuse of power. We will have experienced it in some of those areas of life where we spend our time. Much of my time has been spent as an employee, and some as a school pupil, and I have experienced abuses of power in these places.
It is as we recognise in ourselves the temptation to abuse power that we may realise that where slavery must end is in the heart of the one with power.
Giles Fraser, writing in the Church Times (23rd March), finishes an article with this light-hearted proposal, having quoted the famous economist Adam Smith (An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 1776):
“By persuing his own interest [a person] frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.”
Giles sees some truth in this, drawing on the example of a thriving cafe at his church, to challenge what he sees as the prevailing idea in the church that the best way to make an impact on society is non-commercially.
His view seems to me to tie in with the growing recognition amongst Christians of the value of commercial activity, that is “Business as Mission.”
Of course, not all business is good for society.
The Revd Dr Giles Fraser is Team Rector of Putney. His most recent book is Christianity with Attitude, Canterbury Press £9.99 (978-1-85311-782-4).
Read his full article (this link may not be permanent)
I got excited at the thought that I may leave CMS and go straight in to another job, however it is now clear that I shall enter that state called “unemployment.” I like the idea of a rest, however my diary already seems full of appointments with people I feel that it will be useful to connect with. While waiting to see whether God may guide me to more full-time employment (whether in another mission agency or elsewhere) I am exploring management consultancy and interim management, as well as opportunities within the church.
I should enjoy some overseas work. I should like to renew friendships in India, and explore more, and I have an unfulfilled yearning to spend time in Africa.
My redundancy notice ends on 18th May, but I have negotiated an earlier departure on Friday 30th March.
Our family are feeling a lot of grief at the moment, with bereavements in the family as well as that of leaving work and freinds made at CMS.