IC Stories: Anthony Freeman

I guess I’m the least likely person ever to find themselves wanting to be at the heart of Inclusive Church: white, male, fifty-years married, conventionally healthy in mind and body, Church of England priest, Oxford educated, financially secure, “establishment” to the core … and until I was nominated as a trustee, I had never even heard of IC. How embarrassing is that?

But when you start at the bottom, the only way is up. Over the six years of our association, I have more to thank IC for than I can ever say. So my special word is to anyone who thinks they don’t tick the inclusion boxes: join us, and you will see yourself in a new light.

As a boy in Sussex I went to a church that had an ethnic minority curate (a rarity 65 years ago). He gave me a communion book with some pictures of Mary, Joseph and Jesus as a black family in apartheid South Africa, and with other more conventional pictures showing Jesus and his disciples as Europeans. It never struck me as odd. I just took the mixture for granted.

Fast forward twenty years. I was now a priest with my own church in that same Sussex town, putting on a passion play with the youth club. Without a second thought I asked one of the girls to act the role of Jesus. Her personal qualities plus a recent family tragedy made her the obvious choice. It was only decades later, looking back from the perspective of IC, that I saw how extraordinary it had been at the time to have a girl playing Jesus.

Just two examples of how IC has made me aware of an inclusive truth I must have known all along: Jesus was simply human; he transcended race and gender. In all my ministry, education rather than pastoral care has been my main focus. It has taken Inclusive Church—an educational charity—to help me know myself.

We should all thank God for the existence of a charity like Inclusive Church, making the church a better place through education and self-awareness.

Anthony Freeman is Secretary of the IC Board of Trustees.

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