Windrush Voices: Leaving a legacy
At All Nations Baptist Church, Windrush Day is now embedded into our annual calendar, writes Beverley Hillman.
22 June 2021 marked the fourth National Windrush Day, and 73 years since the Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks. And on Sunday 27 June 2021, we held our celebration and commemoration of Windrush Day, an event which took place on Zoom
Presently, our church building is being renovated. When the renovation is complete, we are looking forward to physically attending as new wine in our new church building. Pastor Paul has led several services about new wine and old wine skins (Mark2: 22).
Covid 19 has led to unprecedented times, but it does not stop God’s work being shared. We have had to use technology and find creative ways of spreading the WORD. This was our third Windrush service and we celebrated and commemorated in the same spirit and enthusiasm, even on zoom.
What were the expectations, hopes and dreams of the people as they left their countries and journeyed on the Empire Windrush and later arrived in Britain.? Imagine the multitude of stories of its passengers. What were the stories of the Windrush children? About 50 children came on the Empire Windrush. Some with their parents or guardians. Some travelled alone to meet their parents back in Britain.
Pastor Paul welcomed everyone with prayers and a call to worship. Our first song, I’m Blessed, by Charlie Wilson, reminded everyone that they were special and blessed by God. This year the theme of our Windrush service was Windrush Voices: Leaving a legacy. We wanted to hear the stories from the Windrush generation, children of the Windrush generation and leave a legacy for future generations.
Our first presentation reminded us that the Windrush generation were invited to come to Britain, as British citizens. To help rebuild Britain after World War 2. The Windrush story is British history.
But …the Windrush generation is passing and taking their stories with them. So, it is important to document, record and share our story, our heritage and our culture. To ensure the Windrush story takes its rightful place in history and is embedded in the school curriculum for ALL children. We need to use different forms of digital resources to record and document the Windrush story; to explore family history, photographs memorabilia, special items and to ensure the stories are told and the legacy isn’t forgotten.
We saluted pioneer Sam King for his passion for a National Windrush Day. Sadly, he did not live to see Windrush Day officially recognised. We also saluted the pioneers and those who have campaigned tirelessly for justice and for this day to be recognised as part of British History.
Due to Covid guidelines and meeting with others, we had to pre-record some of our videos for the service. Our choir pre-recorded an excellent and reflective rendition of the traditional hymn Blessed Assurance, which says, ‘This is my story this is my song.’ This was very appropriate before listening to two Windrush stories.
Oral history is important and enables people to give accounts of their real life experiences. Vera Lowe one of our elder church members, has an excellent memory and passionately shared her story. Vera’s Story included reminiscing about the past and sharing her story of leaving Barbados and coming to England in 1956. She was interviewed by her daughter Jenny and her grandson Miles. Three generations of one family. Vera has already started recording and documenting her story and one day hopes to publish her book.
Our guest speaker was Dr. Velma McClymont. She was born in Jamaica and came to England as a child. She is a child of the Windrush generation and always proudly reminds us that she came from rural St Ann’s in Jamaica.
Dr Velma McClymont spoke to us live on the Zoom. She is an acclaimed speaker, author of several books and director and host of a virtual talk show. Dr Velma, gave an insightful account of coming to England as a child and reconnecting with her parents. Her story included emotion, resilience and a determination to achieve.
Her outstanding story resonated with others. Rarely do we hear the voice of adults who came to England as Windrush children and their experiences.
Children from our Sunday school were involved in the retelling of Noah’s Ark. The parents and children enthusiastically got involved in getting their children to act our several parts of the story independently. This was pre-recorded, then edited by Natasha. She produced an excellent video recording of the children, with animation as part of the zoom.
A presentation called Righting the wrongs? reminded everyone of the Windrush scandal and its impact on those who were affected. Many who had spent 40, 50 years in Britain and were now being told that they could be deported unless they were able to prove their right to stay in Britain.
The congregation were reminded about the plight of those affected by the scandal, their suffering, no entitlement to hospital treatment, dental treatment or any benefits. Many had been detained and were traumatised by the entire change to their lives. The compensation scheme was ineffective and too slow. Twenty people had died without receiving compensation they were entitled to.
Prayers were an essential element of the service. Prayers, for the Windrush generation, their descendants, and others facing challenging times, prayers of thank you for the commitment of the NHS and key workers, prayers for guidance and direction for our young people and prayers for HOPE in a Covid year. Pastor Paul and our prayer warrior Sister Ify covered us all in prayer.
Sister Ify, read Psalm 100, encouraging us to ‘Give thanks to the Lord and praise his name.’
Another presentation about the NHS and the Covid year, enabled us to reflect on those who had sadly passed. We said ‘Thank you,’ to the NHS and key workers for their dedication and hard work during the pandemic. This included key workers in our church. In 1948, many nurses, care workers and others had been encouraged to come Britain to support the newly formed National Health Service. This included the Windrush generation and later their descendants, despite facing many challenges. We listened to the poem You called, we came, written by Professor Laura Serrant. It was very apt, in explaining why the nurses and others came from the Caribbean to help Britain. We listened to Thank you (by Saddleback Church), to show our appreciation to the NHS, and key workers. How many had risked their own lives to help others.
Pastor Paul’s sermon was, ‘What is your story?’ About making positive choices, the importance of faith and listening to God. We listened to Faithful One (by Carla Jane) and the closing prayer and benediction encouraged everyone to keep the faith and have hope for the future.
We had a resilient team, and everyone worked hard to ensure the smooth running of the service on Zoom. The songs and hymns were specially chosen and appropriate for the theme.
We had a good attendance on Zoom, which included church members, friends and family. Some friends and family also joined our Windrush service, instead of their usual church service. Many reported that it was outstanding event. We thanked God for another year.
Beverley Hillman, All Nations Baptist Church, Clapham, London