Stronger Together: Ecumenical Partnership Launched in Uplifting Event

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On Anti-Slavery Day 18th October 2021, the Bishop of Lewes, Rt Revd Will Hazelwood, the Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, Rt Revd Richard Moth and Chair of the Clewer Initiative, Rt Revd Dr Alastair Redfern led in the celebration of an ecumenical partnership between their retrospective dioceses to commit to “fighting modern slavery”, as commented by Revd Martin Poole.

The event saw a total of 15 Anti-Modern-Day Slavery ambassadors commissioned: five ambassadors from the Chichester Diocese: Revd Karen Higgs, Elizabeth Matthews, Jane Myers, Revd Sue Foster and Revd Lizzie Green and 10 from the Roman Catholic Diocese.

Hosted at St John’s Church in Horsham by Fr. Kieron O’Brien from Brighton and Fr. Aaron Spinelli the parish priest, Revd. Martin Poole opened the service by explaining the project’s inception in 2018 and launch just before National Lockdown 2020. There are an estimated 136,000 people in slavery in England today, and the network of ambassadors will work in a variety of ways to help raise awareness and combat this. Varying from educating and spreading the word about modern slavery, to actively training others to join and take action in the community, the role is to be a point of contact for people to learn more and receive guidance.

With pauses for prayer and song, the congregation celebrated and were reminded of God’s work to “break the power of oppression and set the downtrodden free” (Rt Revd Dr Alastair Redfern) you can still watch the live-stream at Turn to Luke 4: 14-21 for the chosen gospel.

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Bishop Alastair Redfern reflected on the ecumenical milestones accomplished already in combating modern slavery, including the signing of the declaration against modern slavery by the Pope, Archbishop of Canterbury and various world religious leaders at The Vatican in 2014. He addressed and celebrated the ambassadors at the event on their vocation to be “representatives and agents” to continue this dedication and actively practice it in society.

In the story of The Good Samaritan, Bishop Alastair highlighted a parallel in today’s society where most of humanity are rushing by those in need: caught up in our own concerns whilst the monstrosity of modern slavery exists in plain sight. The Good Samaritan creates a partnership with an innkeeper to fulfil the sick man’s recovery, and in the ecumenical partnership of wider diocese, the ambassadors of today embody the best of community, the Word of God and all people of goodwill which will be “translated into proper health, proper life, proper grace”.

A particularly poignant definition of modern slavery has been said by Pope Francis: “Slavery happens because of the globalisation of indifference”. Bishop Alastair related this to our growing dependancy on online platforms: stressful, absorbing, controllable and reduced versions of reality have reduced our awareness and compassion for those around us. He stressed that the ambassadors will not only be representing the Church and community, but for consumers and citizens as well as a reminder of our involvement in creating a healthy and compassionate society.

Bishop Alastair reminded the new ambassadors of their immense commitment, and that they will be a great inspiration to others to follow in their footsteps in all manners of ecumenical partnership. The ambassadors were named and commended by Fr. Kieron O/Brien, and the event concluded with readings and song.

You can read more about our five ambassadors from the diocese here.