Race, ministry and me

First published 12th November 2020

I was born in Hong Kong, where I spent the early part of my childhood until I moved to the UK in 1995. Having lived in the UK from a young age, my identity is not wholly based on where I was originally from, and my home is not found in a particular place.

Growing up, I used to get exasperated when people made assumptions about me based on my Chinese heritage. Fair enough that I am good at maths, but so are many others and I never heard any comments linking their mathematical abilities to their English ancestry. How do I get people to see me for who I am, my teenage self wondered, how do I get people to stop putting me in a box?

How do I get people to see me for who I am, my teenage self wondered, how do I get people to stop putting me in a box?

The desire to understand how people think and behave led me to study neuroscience and psychology at the University of Aberdeen. There, I met thousands of students from many different countries with their unique cultures and backgrounds. I lived in a hugely diverse community, where differences were celebrated. I reflected that regardless of where we are from, we all want belonging, acceptance and love. Christ loves and accepts us; he also offers us a chance to belong to his kingdom and to participate in his mission.

Later as a young professional, living in a small missional community revealed some keys to sharing the good news of Christ, such as dignity, dialogue and genuine relationship. We replaced questions based on assumptions with: listening ears, space and time for people to share when they were ready. I believe that Christ used these conversations to communicate his love to our neighbours.

As I journey through faith and life, I realise just how much my sense of social justice, compassion, and the desire to be inclusive are influenced by all the experiences from my past and present. I have come to embrace my identity as a priest, as a mother, as a wife, as a woman, as someone with a British Chinese heritage. Rather than wanting to affect how people see me, I have learnt to reflect on how I see myself, because God loves me and you, just the way we are. Learning to appreciate and to love all of oneself will lead to a greater appreciation and love for others, accepting and loving others just the way they are.

We could all reflect on what the good news is for those around us, based on their unique background and context.

The Revd Aggy Palairet is a curate at St Mary Redcliffe Church, Bristol.

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