BLACK History Month was extended by a day this week, as saints of colour were commemorated in a eucharist at St Paul’s Cathedral.
The service marked the start of the 30th anniversary of the Archbishops’ Council’s Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns (CMEAC), and benefited from a year of research to discover the stories of unsung saints.
In her sermon, the Revd Dr Sharon Prentis, Beginning Theology Co-ordinator and Tutor at St Mellitus College, in London, spoke of her upbringing in inner-city Leeds, where saints seemed “perfect, afar off, not within our perception”. The first one she knew of was Simon Templar, from a TV series; the second was St Francis, who was taught to her at school.
The hope of CMEAC was to expose people to “the great panorama of saints”.
Among those listed were Adrian of Canterbury, the sixth-century abbot who twice declined an invitation to be Archbishop; Sister Alphonsa, the first ethnic Indian to be canonised; and Ini Kopuria, the founder of the Melanesian Brotherhood.
These took their place in the sermon and the prayers alongside more well-known figures, such as Augustine and Anselm, Julian of Norwich and Teresa of Avila, Bede and George Herbert, William Wilberforce and Josephine Butler.
Dr Prentis was not concerned with just black saints, or historical ones. She invited members of the congregation to look about them: “You have just gazed upon a saint.” Most of all, though, she sought to focus on God: “We must never forget that saints reflect God’s glory — and reflected glory comes in all shapes and sizes.”