THE Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons, Prebendary Rose Hudson-Wilkin, has been subjected to racist abuse, which she attributes to the Brexit debate.
Speaking after the C of E’s National Education Confence, at which she was a keynote speaker, Prebendary Hudson-Wilkin said that such “unpleasantness” had developed since the EU referendum.
She said: “For the first time — I’ve lived here for well over 30 years — I was shouted at in the street and told to go back to Africa.
“Now, I don’t come from Africa, so I don’t know which country in Africa they wanted me to go back to.
“I think there has developed an unpleasantness, an underbelly that has suddenly thought: ‘This is our time, and we can say this and do this.’”
She went on: “Whatever happens, we need to remember that the vote was very close, whatever we want to say. Whatever happens at the end of March, it doesn’t mean people will say: ‘Oh right, phew, we’ve arrived now.’
“We still need to be the ointment, we need to be there, praying, hoping, and longing for the kind of unity that is going to see us down whatever path we go down.”
Prebendary Hudson-Wilkin also spoke about an attempt by a group of MPs to put an end to prayers in the House of Commons (News, 18 January).
During her speech, she told conference delegates: “Within the last two weeks, a very tiny minority of MPs, encouraged by the National Secular Society, has called for the abolition of prayers in Parliament.
“Two days ago, a member identified himself to me as an atheist and said: ‘I love coming to prayers. I find that moment of quiet very helpful as a time of reflection before I get stuck into the business of the day.’ Another commented: ‘If anything, we need more prayers at a time like this, not less.’
“Rethinking resilience [the theme of the conference] means unapologetically drawing on our spiritual capital. Prayer is our heartbeat. It means holding on to hope, living as though we believe and know that the best is yet to come.”
She said later that she was very conscious of the “turbulence” in politics at the moment.
“I’m speaking to more and more people, and we’re speaking together because everyone wants to find a solution to where we’re at, and it is very rocky.
“I pray for the people. That is my role. I pray for Parliament, I pray for wisdom, I pray that, during their deliberations, the discourse we have will be wholesome — because I do personally believe that the kind of discourse that we had right at the beginning [of the Brexit debate] contributed to the death of Jo [Cox MP]. I really do believe that.”
As for prayers, she said: “The National Secular Society has always been chipping away at it. But I don’t have any anxiety about it. I’m not one of these people who believes they have to defend God. The day I have to defend God is the day I stop serving God.
“God is God, and all he asks us to do is — not defend him, but simply to live what it means to be a child of God. That’s all we need to do. I don’t get anxious that the NSS wants to abolish prayers. Those of us of faith need to ask ourselves: are we living this faith we say we believe in? Because that’s what is going to make the difference — and I think that’s what they are afraid of.”
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