People from across Canada, the United States, the Caribbean and Africa attended the 27th annual celebration of the Black heritage of the Church, held on YouTube on Feb. 27.
The two-hour service, called Strangers No Longer, was organized and hosted by Black Anglicans of Canada. It featured music, liturgical dancing, prayers, a tribute to the accomplishments of Black Canadians down through the ages, an address by the Primate, and reflections on the life and witness of the late Rev. Dr. Romney Moseley, author of the ground-breaking work, No Longer Strangers.
In a departure from previous years, Anglicans from other parts of the country participated in the service, making it a truly national event.
The Rev. Jacqueline Daley, the priest-in-charge of St. Margaret, New Toronto and a member of Black Anglicans of Canada’s leadership team, welcomed everyone to the service, reminding them that “we gather to celebrate but also to remember that (Dr. Moseley’s) work is not done. We still have work to do to address the sin of racism in the Anglican Church and to make it the church of Jesus Christ, where all are included and none are strangers. Today we are celebrating the goodness of God, who continues to renew us and calls us to action and works of justice.” She encouraged people to re-read No Longer Strangers and for the national church to re-publish it.
The Rev. Randy Williams of the Diocese of Niagara, Anita Gittens, ODT, of the Diocese of Toronto, and the Rev. Canon Dr. Kortright Davis, a professor of Theology at Howard University School of Divinity in Washington, DC, paid tribute to Dr. Moseley, a scholar, mentor and activist who died while presiding at a service at St. Michael and All Angels in Toronto in 1992.
Dr. Moseley was born in Barbados in 1943 and graduated as a biology major from Boston University in 1968. He completed a Bachelor of Divinity degree and a Ph.D. in religion and society from Harvard University. He taught at the University of Virginia (1975-80), the Candler School of Theology at Emory University (1981-88), and Trinity College, Toronto (1988-92). He is survived by his wife and daughter.
As an associate professor of Divinity at Trinity College, he taught in the areas of ethics and society, where he focussed on issues of suffering, evil and a loving God. “He joined other Caribbean theologians in the fundamental tenet that the core of the Christian gospel is freedom from all forms of oppression – that also meant within the Anglican Church of Canada,” said Ms. Gittens.
Dr. Moseley’s brief time in Toronto “will long be remembered because of a report submitted to General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada in June of 1992,” said Mr. Williams. “This report, with recommendations, accompanied by a study guide, formed the basis for the Church’s policy on multiculturalism. Unfortunately, he did not have the opportunity to present the report to General Synod. It was published two years after his death, with the title No Longer Strangers. As a result of this work, and with General Synod’s endorsement, many dioceses in Canada established committees, similarly named No Longer Strangers. It was the leadership role of those committees to read the study and to pursue the recommendations made in the report. They, in turn, would educate others.”
Mr. Williams said Dr. Moseley was an influential figure at Trinity College, where his courses were often over-subscribed and attracted many students from different denominations. “He was an articulate and respected spokesperson to a growing number of parishioners of West Indian origin in the Canadian church. Today, we remember him with deep affection, and we are indebted to him, for not only his academic and pastoral contributions, but also for the Christian witness he lived as a priest.”
Ms. Gitten said Dr. Moseley “lit a fire under the Anglican Church of Canada. His legacy lives on and much work remains to be done. Our Church must continue to encourage dioceses to be more intentional in executing the recommendations of No Longer Strangers if it is to be an inclusive Church where no one is made to feel that they are a stranger. In doing this, we can honour his transformative work and memory.”
Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, addressed the gathering, expressing a hope that every congregation and diocese embraced and acted on the title of the service, Strangers No Longer.
“I am aware that our Church needs to deepen its understanding of the ways in which the voices and faith of Black Anglicans have been suppressed by systemic bias, colonialism and racism – conscious and unconscious,” she said. “We must listen to Black history told by those whose faith in our midst has enriched the Church. We must examine our life from top to bottom, committed to respect the dignity of every human being, and to change whatever inhibits or denigrates the fullness of ministries of the whole Body of Christ. Our leadership needs to reflect the diversity of our Church. There is much work to do to build on the work of the past three decades, particularly that of the Rev. Dr. Romney Moseley, whose report, No Longer Strangers, is echoed in the title for this service. It is a title that demands our attention and action. Strangers No Longer – let’s make that true in every congregation and diocese. I am grateful to Black Anglicans of Canada for their commitment to education, prophetic proclamation and story-telling, and I look forward to the recommendations of the Dismantling Racism Task Force to the Council of General Synod to hold our Church accountable for what we have said with our lips but have not fully enacted in our life as Church.”
Irene Moore Davis of the Diocese of Huron gave a stirring tribute to Black Canadians, listing by name those who have made important contributions in politics, the arts, acadamia, the military, sports, social justice and other areas. Quoting from an author, she encouraged people to “activate our courage, to truly step into our role as ambassadors of racial reconciliation, no longer destined to just obey, suffer and witness but to disrupt, heal and lead.”
The Strangers No Longer service can be watched on YouTube.