You can listen to Cathy’s sermon again here:

Cathy Okoronkwo preached for us two weeks ago. Her sermon raised questions in the minds both of black and white members of our congregation. Just as no individual from Scotland could possibly speak for all Scottish people, Cathy cannot speak for all black people. She has bravely opened a discussion about race so let’s see if we can hear what she is saying.

Cathy, could you tell us more about what causes you about the church.

Mainly, that I don’t see myself represented in the Church. There are very few BAME people in our congregations and even fewer in leadership. I personally felt unable to use my name ‘Okoronkwo’, because it placed me at a disadvantage.

What it is that would make a difference to those in our society who have suffered racial abuse?

I would like to see white people acknowledge the hurt and pain that has been caused by racial injustices and inequalities. I would like white people to lament the suffering of generations of BAME people in society, to educate themselves and choose to engage in the discourse. I would like to see them move from being passive, to acting wherever or however God leads them. I would like our churches to offer a generous compassion that chooses to be inclusive and diverse.

What would actually make a difference for the future?

I long to see our churches being places of welcome, hospitality and love where people of colour aren’t treated as ‘guest’ but as ‘family’. Our churches need to engage and encourage BAME people at all levels of church life especially leadership i.e. Youth Leaders, Worship Leaders, PCC members, ordained and licensed Lay Ministers. Churches need to be invitational to people of colour.

What does it mean to “have your body contorted to fit white expectations?” What is it that we are asking you to be or to do – and how can we stop?

I want to know I belong to a church family as me and not in line with the agenda of white people. The liturgies and music cause me as a black person to conform to expectations. Would I be able to dance in your church? Would I be able to sing an Igbo worship song in your church and others join in fully? When I come to a church will they see me as family? Will someone want to touch my hair as if I’m a strange zoo creature, or ask me if I’m used to weather, or tell me I should speak in a particular way, or some other remark that reminds me that I’m other? These are things I have experienced many times directly.