Ladies and Gentlemen and Pastor Agu, it really is such a blessing to be with all of you today, particularly as it is 14 years I think after my last visit here with The Bishop of London, who had asked me to come to celebrate the contribution of black majority churches to our society. Of course, it happened to coincide with my birthday and I couldn’t think of a more joyous place to spend it frankly. Pastor Agu of course you were here, and I had the opportunity to thank you for the contribution that you and black majority churches generally were making both to your local communities and to the life of this nation as a whole. And now, of course, as we meet in the shadow of this dreadful pandemic, I have even more cause to give thanks to all that you have done and are doing to help your fellow citizens in their hour of need.
As I have seen today, you have opened your church to the vaccine programme for the whole community and you have been collecting and distributing food to those who need it most, as I have also seen. If ever we needed an example of how to be a good Samaritan we need look no further, if I may say so. You are all playing a really signal role in the great effort that places of worship all over the country have been making at this time in supporting social action projects. In fact, a recent report commissioned by The National Churches Trust, of which Her Majesty The Queen is Patron, said the financial value of the services and the support that church buildings provide, and the health and wellbeing they create, has been calculated at £12.4 billion a year.
So Ladies and Gentlemen, we are all immensely proud of the role black majority churches play and it is of course a profound sorrow to me to know that black communities have been hit particularly hard by this pernicious virus. I can only wish you every possible success as you promote and facilitate the take up of this essential vaccine that is so utterly vital to our community. It is, as I know Pastor Agu has said, truly an answer to prayer.
On my last visit here, I learnt that wonderful acronym PUSH, ‘Pray Until Something Happens’. Well something certainly has happened and I give thanks for it and for your faithfulness, both in prayer and in action. We need your witness and your work as we seek to bring this pandemic to an end and please be assured I will certainly be PUSH-ing with you.