I can't tell you what a joy it is to worship with you today. All I can tell you is that there is nowhere I would rather be on my birthday. You have given us both such a wonderful, warm and happy welcome and all I can tell you is that we shall leave here with our spirits well and truly raised. And for that I really do thank you more than I can possibly say.
Thank you to Pastor Agu for his wonderful invitation to join you here today. It was The Bishop of London who told me originally about the growing importance of the black churches in the United Kingdom.
Believe it or not, The Bishop of London and I were at university together! That makes me feel incredibly old! But he told me the importance of black churches in the United Kingdom: 10 per cent of English churchgoers are black and 44 per cent in inner London. So you are of enormous and growing importance.
And of course as The Bishop said earlier today, Britain is such a welcoming country to so many people of different backgrounds but I always think that, at the end of the day, you can’t be hospitable without a home and, in our case, a Christian home to which to welcome people. And you welcome people in your own wonderful way.
You are all a marvellous example of how so many people whose families originate from the Commonwealth, have yourselves brought new life into the Christian church in the United Kingdom thereby completing the cycle started by missionaries from Britain so many years ago. So we have that to thank you for.
And ladies and gentlemen, I have been so impressed to hear this morning about your active involvement in the local community. Your yearly free car wash events, the Spreading Christmas Cheer programme - working in underground stations to give away hot drinks and mince pies and visiting the elderly and drop in centres and so on and so forth. In your church you are doing the things that Jesus would do if he walked the streets of London today. I know also, ladies and gentlemen, that prayer is a very important part of your church life, we witnessed that this morning, and I hear you hold regular “Push” meetings (Pray Until Something Happens).
Well I can tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that I have been “Pushing” for a very long time! And I shall join you from now on in a jolly good “Push”!
I must also say that a huge positive contribution to British society is made by a great number of church-going black people. I want you to remember, that it is highly appreciated by me and more and more by other people. Too often, it seems that the media are interested in the negative and stereotypical but you, if I may say so, are a wonderful and shining example.
Finally, I just want to say that during my meeting earlier with Pastors and Bishops we were talking about ways of developing collaboration and links between my Prince’s Trust – which is now 31 years old – and the black churches. So that we will be able, hopefully as a result of the discussions, to work more closely together around the country.
Above all else, what my Trust and I have been trying to do for 31 years is assist young people to acquire self-esteem and self-confidence. It is remarkable what can be done once you acquire it. But an awful lot of young people don’t have it and it can lead to alienation and anti-social activity. But I do know what an enormous difference that can be made by the kind of programmes which we run and also, ladies and gentlemen, by the wonderful work that you do. And so with your leaders and motivators I am sure that we can do some very valuable work together throughout the United Kingdom.
I have asked Diane-Louise Jordan, who you might know as a presenter from Songs of Praise and a former presenter of Blue Peter, who now is a member of my Trust Council, to take this work forward to see how we can work much more effectively together.
Having said that can I once again express my heart-felt thanks for this wonderful opportunity to see you all here this morning. I wish I had known about this church long ago.
I pray, ladies and gentlemen, that you continue in your wonderful work for the Spirit and that you are inspired by our Lord for many years to come.