Work was carried out yesterday to remove a number of prominent references to Edward Colston in the windows of Bristol Cathedral and St Mary Redcliffe Church.
The fall of the Colston statue on 7 June was a symbolic moment for the city and a signal for change. For us, it is the right moment to take the action we have been considering for some time.
A cathedral or a church should be a place of sanctuary, justice and peace: a place where God’s glory is worshipped and God’s love is felt. The dedications to Colston, in two significant places of worship, has prevented many people from finding peace in these beautiful buildings. Most of these dedications have now gone and the rest will follow.
The removal or covering of window panes is also a symbolic moment. It doesn’t change history and it doesn’t change the fact that black people in Bristol, Britain and the world still face discrimination, injustice and racism. We must not let it distract us from the work that needs to be done. But we hope it demonstrates our renewed sense of urgency to address these issues and truly be a Church for everyone.
Bristol Cathedral, St Mary Redcliffe Church and the Church of England in Bristol have been involved in discussions and work around the trans-Atlantic slave trade, racism, identity and justice for many years and this must continue. We will complete an inventory of all our churches to identify and understand references to slavery. We will engage with black Christians, theologians, historians and all members of the community as we listen, learn and explore these important issues and agree the right course of action.
The removal of historical items is a complex subject that evokes strong feeling. We want to work with others to address the true cost of our history, heal our divisions and build a unified city of hope that values and cares for everyone. We welcome the opportunity to be part of the Mayor of Bristol’s commission.
What has been done today is one step on an important journey. The Bishop of Bristol, the Right Revd Vivienne Faull, has set out her commitments that will form the basis of our work and focus over the coming weeks, months and years.