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A Redemption Song: Illuminations on Black British pastoral theology and culture by Delroy Hall

15 July 2022

Selina Stone reviews a theological reflection that breaks new ground

DELROY HALL’s A Redemption Song is a landmark work that brings to the fore the pastoral needs of African Caribbean communities and highlights the theological and practical resources for addressing them.

Written by a psycho-dynamically trained counsellor with years of experience in pastoral ministry, the book begins by naming the complexity of African Caribbean identity and history, which is, for Delroy Hall, marred by the trauma of the transatlantic slave trade and ongoing realities of non-belonging and anti-Black racism in Britain.

Chapter 1 ends with a focus on Black spirituality as a source of resilience, and, in chapter 2, Hall turns to Black theology in his comparison between the Middle Passage (the transporting of enslaved Africans to the Americas) and the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Chapter 3 involves a Black theological examination of the life of Sam Sharpe, who for Hall, embodies eucharistic love through the laying down of his life for the liberation of others. It is through this eucharistic lens that Hall seeks to develop a Black pastoral theology, by first dealing in Chapter 4 with the significance of relationships and conflict (“eucharistic encounters”) and memory.

Chapter 5 is dedicated to further exploration of race and identity in Britain, with attention to the domination of whiteness, the prevalence of negative labelling, and the need to find spaces of healing where the Black mind might be renewed.

In Chapter 6, we are invited to consider the under-explored theme of Black male life and flourishing, moving beyond caricatures to theologise regarding self-love for African Caribbean men in Britain. Chapter 7 draws on African American sources to explore the intersection of Black psychology and Black pastoral theology with a focus on detachment and violence. Hall then discusses the future of Black theology in the UK, before ending, in his eighth and final chapter, with guidelines for the future of Black pastoral theology in Britain.

This work places in the foreground a range of essential themes that pastoral theologians, ministers, counsellors, and spiritual accompaniers must attend to if they seek to serve all people, including African Caribbeans in Britain. The book reads as a collection of essays, and so there is some repetition and the need for further expansion, as Hall recognises in the final chapter.

Nevertheless, his contributions are clear in terms of Black British pastoral theologies of the eucharist and the crucifixion, discussions of Black British communal trauma, and the focus on Black men’s self-love, which are ground-breaking and must be commended. This work is crucial reading for all those who are (or, in future, may be) responsible for the pastoral care of Black people, and all those who seek and hope for the flourishing of Black humanity.

Dr Selina Stone is Tutor and Lecturer in Theology, St Mellitus College.

A Redemption Song: Illuminations on Black British pastoral theology and culture
Delroy Hall
SCM Press £22.99
Church Times Bookshop £18.39

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