Windrush Celebration in Preston
28th June 2019
On Sabbath 22 June 2019, Preston Seventh-day Adventist church celebrated the Empire Windrush legacy. Many people are aware of the Windrush scandal, which refers to when people were brought to the UK, but not given British citizenship. Preston worshippers have also been affected by the scandal, and it did not just affect the older members. For example, one child wanting to go on an international school trip, was refused a passport (even though she is second generation born in the UK) because her Caribbean grandmother never became a British citizen. Windrush has come to symbolise both the Caribbean diaspora to the UK, and the matter of legal, but undocumented inward migration to Britain from the Caribbean and elsewhere on the globe.
The speaker for the Windrush celebration was Pastor Richard Jackson, North England Conference (NEC) President. The local Adventurers and Pathfinders started the worship service in the morning by marching in and processing the flags to Preston Drum Corps accompaniment. Preston City Mayor Councillor David Borrow (who is the 692nd Mayor of Preston), and Black History Group chairperson, Clinton Smith, joined local pastor, Jeff Couzins, to welcome all who were present.
Preston Adventist church elders and members supported the Windrush celebrations with their active involvement in the morning service and afternoon programme. A repeated theme that emerged in the afternoon was the challenges the first generation of Caribbeans faced when they arrived in the UK. From being chased through the streets by local mobsters carrying knives and chains, to racial prejudice when looking for accommodation and employment. These courageous and humble predecessors to today's generation helped pave the way for the passing of racial discrimination laws. Today's youth and young people are now benefitting from all that the UK has to offer due to the patience and humble endurance of their Caribbean progenitors.
The Windrush celebration resulted from Preston Black History Group contacting Preston church seeking to collaborate with the church to host the event. The occasion was supported by UCLAN's Institute for Black Atlantic Research group (IBAR), Preston Windrush Generations and Descendants UK (PWGDUK), NHS Trust governors, Preston City Council, and officers from the Hate Crime and Inclusion sections of Lancashire Police.
The police officers present at the Windrush celebration, and a local councillor, were so impressed with the discipline of the Pathfinders that they asked if they could send some young people to join in with the uniform group. Additionally, the city mayor was so impressed with the lunch that was provided, that he offered special thanks to the Preston church catering team for all the hard work they had put in to preparing and serving high quality food to such a large number of people.
Earlier in the week, Pastor Jeff attended the Red Cross Refugee Week celebration, where he was asked to say a few words about the work of the Adventist church in Preston and pray God's blessing upon the gathering. Pastor Jeff had to double check with the organisers, because most of the refugees were not Christian, but the organisers had such a positive experience with the Adventist church in Preston that they were delighted Pastor Jeff could attend and support the event.
The run-up to the Windrush celebration event involved Pastor Jeff interacting with several community groups, and he has received requests to join various committees, and an invitation to conduct training in governance to one of the groups, which was highly appreciated. One of the people present at the training said that although she had run her own business for many years, she had her eyes opened regarding voluntary work. These interactions have also facilitated witnessing opportunities and sharing of Christian literature that would otherwise never have happened.
In recent years, Preston Adventist church has developed a vibrant Afro-Caribbean ministry aimed at liaising with voluntary groups and charities working in the community. This has borne fruit in many ways, including working with the Red Cross to support asylum seekers and refugees; networking with Preston BME group to host Black Hate Crime seminars; networking with several community groups, and taking part in various other joint enterprises.
The passenger ship Empire Windrush moored at Tilbury docks on 22 June 1948, bringing 500 people from the island of Jamaica. This event heralded migration to the UK from several Caribbean islands and has helped transform the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the British Union Conference into the vibrant Church it is today.
There have been other waves of inward migration since then, including a Southern African diaspora, migration from the Asian subcontinent, from Eastern European countries, and from some South American nations. Preston Adventist church has benefitted from these influxes and has been enriched through the process. It is now a multicultural church seeking to support people equally from whatever part of the world they may have originated from. Sabbath 22 June, however, was dedicated to the memory of the Windrush generation, their descendants, and their positive cultural influence.