A report of the Septembers event from Adrian Greenwood, Bermondsey Deanery Lay Chair
Archbishop Justin Welby was given the urban name J.Welbs by rap artist Guvna B as he spoke about his life and faith to a packed audience at the Lighthouse Theatre Camberwell on Monday 5th September.
The event had been organised by the ecumenical group, Southwark for Jesus, and was hosted by James Nickols and the Christian radio presenter, Selene Jordan. The evening also a featured the performance of a powerful poem by Lena Norman and of a range of songs by members of the Lewisham Hospital NHS Choir.
The evening opened with a lively group of rap songs by Guvna B, one of the leading Christian rap artists in the country, during which he had the audience dancing in the aisles. In an interview which followed with him, the Archbishop and Dr Fran Denniss, a children’s doctor at Lewisham Hospital and member of the Choir, Guvna B spoke of his upbringing on a Council estate in Canning Town. Here he had experienced the competing pressures of family life and membership of his local church with gang culture on the estate. Eventually he chose to give his life to Christ and entered the music business, writing his own lyric using the words and medium that relate best to young people from similar backgrounds. It was during this interview that he suggested the rap name for the Archbishop and even presented him with his cap. Archbishop Justin took the suggestion in good humour but said that he would stick with his day job – if he started to sing or dance the NHS choir would be working on emergency cases rather than singing tonight.
Fran also spoke of her faith in Christ and how it helps her in some of her most difficult moments with very sick and dying children. The comradeship that she and all her colleagues had found in the Choir was also a great help to them, and, indeed, all the hospital staff as they coped with their very stressful roles.
Archbishop Justin chose to speak about the passage in the Bible where Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35 – 41). He spoke about the ‘storms of life, which affect every person, whether from the circumstances of life or self inflicted. He mentioned several from his own personal life including the death of his baby daughter in a car accident in France and the bewilderment of mental illness suffered by another family member. He explained that his faith in Jesus, the man who ‘even the winds and waves obeyed’, had brought him to a place of peace; of great calm. The safest place was to be ‘in the boat with Jesus’, even if this was at the heart of the storm, rather than on the shore relying on one’s own strength to escape. He ended by asking people in the audience the same question, which the disciples asked at the time – the most important question that everyone must face – ‘who is this man?’
As Mark’s Gospel explains, the disciples gradually found the answer as they journeyed with Jesus through his life to his execution as a criminal on the cross. An act of total love by God for all humanity and the opportunity for each and every person to make a fresh start from the mistakes of life find peace with God amidst the storms.
All images from @LoveSouthwark Twitter (www.twitter.com/LoveSouthwark)