That treasured second of therapeutic
My mother often tells the story of her first months in the UK. Part of it was that she wanted to find an Anglican church here, similar to the one she was used to in Guyana. I suspect that she lacked the familiar and had hoped to find an appearance of it in this new and often hostile country. She checked the churches in the area and found one not far from where she lived.
After a few weeks of attending the one-hour services, the priest waited for them at the end of the morning, reached out to shake hers, and said, "Thank you for coming, but please don't come back."
It was a slap in the face to be invited to the country to work, only to find ignorance and discrimination in all areas of society, and to be casually dismissed from the one place where she should have found refuge . Karen Gibson's mother when she is pregnant with KarenIt is a shocking and painful story, but it has become part of the collective family memory.
A few weeks ago I had a business to do in a church near me. I took mom with me. When we pulled up in front of the building, I had the strong feeling that I wanted to take her with me. I wanted the pastor to meet her. I didn't know why – maybe it's because people are immediately attracted to mom's warm and embracing nature. While we were walking, she casually informed me that this was the church that she had visited and that had been banned years ago. I was incredulous because she had never identified the place that caused such complaints.
We went inside and were quickly greeted by the pastor, a friendly and trendy lady in her early forties, strolling with the greatest smile in her sports equipment. She greeted us with hugs. When we shared the story of life and installed the new prayer area in a corner of the building, I mentioned that this was where my mother was many moons ago. It was up to the pastor to be incredulous. With a rare sensitivity and genuine interest, she asked: "And how was your experience – was it a good one?"
I looked at Mama who said nothing but just bowed her head with an ironic smile. The priest then turned to me with big, questioning eyes and a quickly flushed face and asked: "Really? Is that what's going on here? "I didn't say anything either and looked at her knowingly.
Suddenly, without thinking about it a second, and to the great surprise and dismay of Mama and I, this wonderful, love-filled woman fell on her knees before Mama and poured out the most passionate apology with deep regret. I was shocked. Mama just smiled back at her forgiveness and replied with her usual stoic attitude to life and all its thorns, "It's all right. That's life."
WEEKS later we returned to church where I was supposed to hold a community gospel concert. Several neighborhood members as well as friends and family were present – black and white, old and young, all faiths and none. Our pastor greeted them all, and there she asked again with tearful eyes and perhaps with a deeper understanding of the injustices that the Windrush generation suffered from, those for whom the institution she represented had wronged.
Such a gift! What a precious moment! Who would have thought that 50 years later, in the 70th year of the wind rush, reconciliation and healing could be found through the love and conscience of a woman who was not born when the crime was committed but who cared enough for one she had never met the old woman to hug her on one bent knee.
What many did not know at the time was that this incredible woman of matter had left her sick mother's side to do what she thought was the only thing she could do: confess the sins of her predecessors, ask for forgiveness those who are wrong help heal the wounds of a community.
Karen Gibson is the founder and director of the Kingdom Choir, who performed at the Duke and Duchess of Sussex wedding (News, May 25, 2018).