Over the past 50 years, the church scene in many parts of Britain has experienced dramatic changes. One of the most striking and significant is the growth and multiplication of Black majority churches and other churches comprised mainly of members from the Caribbean, Africa, Asia or Latin America. Many other churches have also received new members from these backgrounds, some who have come as immigrants, others who were born here.
These developments have been exciting but also challenging. Not all have felt welcome in churches with a dominant ethnicity or culture. Not all new churches have thrived. Many are struggling to reach out beyond their own ethnic group or to hold on to their children. Efforts at partnership and mutual learning have often floundered. Overt and institutional racism has been evident. And yet the potential is huge for mission and church renewal!
The Black Light course offers an opportunity to explore and reflect on this scenario. The course was first run in London in the 1990s as an opportunity for Black Christians to dig deeper into their history and think about contemporary challenges and opportunities, and for White Christians to learn more about the history, spirituality and faith of Black Christians and churches. Black and White presenters and participants shared in a rich learning experience.
Over 20 years on, some of the issues have changed, others remain the same. There has been further growth in the Black majority churches; there are more mono-ethnic churches; many of these churches are losing their young people and are still unsure how to reach out to others; and the Black Lives Matter movement has renewed consciousness of the continuing struggle against racism. The Black Light course has been revised and updated and will be offered in 2021 as an online course – eight evening sessions spread over nine weeks (with a break in the middle).
Black and White: the challenges we all face
with Les Isaac and Stuart Murray Williams
The Black Influence on Church History
with Kate Coleman
The Black Presence in the Bible
with Robert Beckford
Post-Christendom and Post-colonialism
with Ronald Nathan
Roots and Routes
with Bev Thomas
White and Black: churches in the UK today
with Ben Lindsay
with Israel Olofinjana
Partnership in Mission
with Harvey Kwiyani
Zoom call open
The Black Light course is great opportunity to take a journey through the biblical thread of race and diversity. Whilst each module will hold its own significance, we encourage you to attend all the sessions for the bigger picture of how this impacts the outworking of our vision and calling to grow God’s Kingdom with these issues.
Speakers & Hosts
Robert Beckford is professor of Black theology at Queen’s Ecumenical Foundation in Birmingham and VU University in Amsterdam. Robert is the author of six books and over thirty television and radio documentaries on the interfaces between theology, culture and politics. His most recent radio documentary, “Black Jesus” explores the meaning of black Christology in the age of Black Lives Matter. His current research is a practice-based theo-musicology, “The Jamaican Bible Remix album”. The album inscribes black theology into black urban music. A book reflecting on the project, Decolonising Gospel Music: A Black British Praxis will be published in 2021.
Kate Coleman is a Baptist Minister and the founding director of Next Leadership. She has over 30 years of leadership experience in the church, charity, voluntary and business sectors, and is a strategic advisor who mentors, coaches and supports leaders and organisations locally, nationally and internationally. Kate completed a term as Chair of the Evangelical Alliance Council (2012-2014) and is a former president of the Baptist Union of Great Britain (2006-2007). Her network extends across all sectors and church denominations. Kate is the author of 7 Deadly Sins of Women in Leadership. Her media contributions include the mainstream press, radio and TV.
South African by birth, Alexandra Ellish spent her teenage years in England, studied theology in Edinburgh and later Prague, where she was also ordained as a Baptist minister. Alexandra has been part of Urban Expression in various ways since 2009 and is now part of the team of co-ordinators for the organisation. Alexandra, her husband Philip and their two children live in Peckham, South London, where Alexandra is also the minister of Amott Baptist Church. Alexandra loves the Anabaptists, Woman’s Hour and long walks with her Jack Russell, Westley.
Esther Fenty has undertaken a variety of roles in secular and Christian education: secondary school teacher, educational psychologist, non-medical helper supporting dyslexic students in higher education, Sunday School teacher and Youth leader. She also has a developing interest in counselling. She is a member of the Calvary Church of God in Christ in Kentish Town, London, and is head of the National Sunday School Department. Esther combined her interest in psychology and theology to research how faith is formed in children in Black Holiness/ Pentecostal churches in the UK and was awarded a doctorate in Theology and Ministry by Kings College, London.
Les Isaac is the founder of the Ascension Trust. Under the umbrella of the trust, Les has pioneered many community partnerships and launched initiatives such as Street Pastors, School and College Pastors, Rail Pastors, Prayer Pastors and many more. With over 30 years of Church leadership experience and partnership development on global initiatives, Les is a visionary who wants to see the Church, equipped to serve the communities where they stand.
Harvey Kwiyani is an African mission scholar and practitioner who has, since 2001, served in missions in several countries in Europe as well as the United States, working mostly amongst locals as a theological educator, missional coach and church planter. He holds a PhD in Mission and Leadership from Luther Seminary in Minnesota, USA, having done his research on the theological implications of the missionary work of Africans in the West. He oversees the work of Missio Africanus and teaches African Christianity, cross-cultural missions and leadership at Birmingham Christian College and at Church Mission Society’s Pioneer Leadership Training Program in Oxford. He is the author of Sent Forth: African Missionary Work in the West (2014) and Multicultural Kingdom: Ethnic Diversity, Mission and the Church (2020).
Ben Lindsay is the founder of Power The Fight, a charity launched in 2019 to train and empower communities to end youth violence. He is an experienced trainer and facilitator with more than 19 years spent working with high risk young people in the field of gangs and serious youth violence. Between 2016 and 2020, Ben was lead pastor at Emmanuel New Cross. He sits on the Mayor of London’s Violence Reduction Unit reference group and on the cross-party Youth Violence Commission. His first book, We need to talk about race – understanding the Black experience in White-majority churches, was published in 2019.
Stuart Murray Williams spent 12 years as an urban church planter in East London and has continued to be involved in church planting as a trainer, mentor, writer, strategist and consultant. Under the auspices of the Anabaptist Network and Urban Expression, he works as a trainer and consultant, with particular interest in urban mission, church planting and emerging forms of church. He has written books on church planting, urban mission, emerging church, the challenge of post-Christendom and the Anabaptist tradition.
Senior Minister and Public Theologian, Ron Nathan is currently the Pastor of the Hoggard African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Jackson, St. Michael, Barbados. He has been in Christian ministry for 42 years and has held several Christian leadership posts in Kenya, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and the United Kingdom. He has published several academic articles on Black Theology and various African themes. As a public theologian, he has lectured extensively in Africa, the Caribbean, Europe and the United States of America.
Israel Olofinjana is the founding director of the Centre for Missionaries from the Majority World and an Honorary Research Fellow at Queens Foundation for Theological Ecumenical Education in Birmingham. He is also the pastor of Woolwich Central Baptist Church, a multi-ethnic, multicultural inner-city church. Israel is the author of Partnership in Mission: A Black Majority Church Perspective on Mission and Church Unity (2015) and Reverse in Ministry and Missions: Africans in the Dark Continent of Europe (2010). He is the editor of World Christianity in Western Europe: Diasporic Identity, Narratives and Missiology (2020) and is on the editorial board of Missio Africanus an online journal of African missiology in Britain. He recently joined the Evangelical Alliance as the Director of One People Commission.
Bev Thomas works as a freelance consultant, speaker and lecturer. She has worked for the last 35+ years in the UK and internationally as a trainer/speaker on social justice and ‘race’ issues. She is also an experienced mediator, facilitator, administrator, team leader and projects and events manager. She speaks on numerous issues, including diversity awareness and inclusion, social justice, youth work, sexuality, singleness, women in leadership and politics. Bev is currently a lecturer at Formission College. She is a trustee of The Feast, Sandwell Churches Link, Urban Expression, Trussell Trust and a volunteer chaplain for West Midlands Police. She also enjoys genealogy research, keeping fit and singing for recreation.
Black Light is a joint initiative
Ascension Trust is a charitable organisation set up in 1993 to help equip people to serve. The aim is to empower the church to make a lasting positive impact in their communities and show strength through unity. This is undertaken by our initiatives such as Street Pastors, School and College Pastors, Rail Pastors, Response Pastors, Prayer Pastors and many more. With more than 25 years’ experience in community partnership development, the Ascension Trust continues to have a global reach in sharing the love of Christ by Caring, Listening and Helping.
Urban Expression is a mission agency set up in 1997 that recruits, supports and networks together teams that live in marginalised neighbourhoods across the United Kingdom, exploring creative and contextual ways to live out the gospel where they are. This may result in the planting of new churches, developing social enterprises, campaigning for justice, community organising or other forms of holistic mission. There are currently 24 teams in the network. In 2005, Urban Expression launched the Crucible course, which has equipped several hundred people for mission on the margins.
Please contact us with any questions using this form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.