Historic bishop, historic visit … England’s first black Jamaica-born bishop celebrated in the US
In a nation still reeling from the devastation triggered by mass shootings and the largest Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid in a single week, there is a bright spot in the city of America’s birthplace. On the recent International Sunday, Her Eminence Rose Hudson-Wilkin brought a message of hope and reflection across the Atlantic Ocean to the historic Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Philadelphia.
It is likely the vision of rising from life in a public housing project to become spiritual leader to Queen Elizabeth II as well as the Parliament of England would strike most as delusional. But this is not so for Jamaica-born Hudson-Wilkin. In June, she took on an additional distinction – becoming the first black Bishop-Designate of the Church of England.
According to The Guardian, despite her elite standing, the bishop is not shy about taking on the challenges of racism and sexism. And, without fanfare, she entered the sanctuary, simply kneeled, prayed and took in several selections by Mother Bethel’s celebrated choir before speaking. ‘There Is A Voice I Need To Hear’ was one of them. “Speak a word to give me strength … hope … peace,” was the refrain.
The bishop’s tone was unlike the fire and brimstone-style to which many congregants are accustomed and, typically, enjoy. She spoke in a calm, hushed, and matter-of-fact fashion; focusing on the Gospel of Luke and the book of Isaiah. This required intentional listening.
She encouraged congregants: “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
‘FAITH SPEAKS TRUTH TO POWER’
She noted: “We live at a time when there is much fear … about who we are and what kind of people we need to be … What kind of country do we need to leave our children. Do not be afraid. We need to claim what God has given us.”
Bishop Hudson-Wilkin feels very comfortable about her role in Parliament especially, because “my foreparents had a role in building this place”. She encouraged congregants to stop apologising and do it in a way that embraces all.
According to Her Eminence, faith belongs in the public square, “Faith speaks truth to power”. Recounting the story of Nathan and King David, she recalled King David became incensed by Nathan’s tale of a man who behaved badly. Nathan informed: the man is the King.
“We need to challenge the (terror) that divides us. Why? Because we are the people of God. We need to live as though we believe it. Let’s not collude with our silence. Let us challenge and call it out,” she said.
“We cheat the gospel when we don’t live it. You and I have a responsibility in the places where we live and work to challenge the authority. It is not about singing and dancing and waving flags around. Holiness is about how we care for one another.”
Her challenge: “Come, now, let us talk about it. We can’t go wrong if we take a leaf from God’s book. Let us go forth and live what it means to be the people of God.”
Pews were filled with worshippers from several nations, including: The Bahamas, Barbados, Brazil, Ethiopia, Republic of Congo, United Kingdom, and United States of America.
GREATNESS FROM A SINGLE PERSON WITH A SIMPLE IDEA
Senior Pastor Mark Kelly Tyler reminded those gathered of the greatness that can come from a single person with a simple idea.
He stated, “In May, through Oliver St Clair Franklin OBE, Honorary Consul of the British Consulate, a childhood friend inquired about the possibility of Her Eminence worshipping at Mother Bethel. ‘I said: Could she visit? Of course, she can visit. But can she also bring a sermon and preach?’ Separately, several of Mother Bethel’s international members had been working on plans for an International Sunday. This seemed to be the perfect day.”
Richard Allen, one of America’s most influential black leaders, founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church at Mother Bethel in Philadelphia in 1794. He had a vision of expanding the church internationally. It presently exists on five continents, with nearly three million members. His remains are interned at the founding church.
Upon her arrival, Bishop Rose Hudson-Wilkin received special recognitions from Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Councilman David Oh, who chairs the Council’s Committee on Global Opportunities and the Creative/Innovative Economy.
In a citation, Councilman Oh noted: “While she is known to be a great priest – passionate, bold, deeply pastoral, and prophetic – the Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin has used her talents to provide exemplary leadership and advocacy for equality and peace; and, the people of Philadelphia are grateful that Bishop Designate Rose Hudson-Wilkin has chosen to visit our city at this momentous time.”
The Queen approved the appointment of the Reverend Hudson-Wilkin to the Suffragen See of Dover, and she will commence service as Bishop of Dover in November, while continuing to serve as the Queen’s Chaplain.