International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition

Yesterday, 23rd August, is the date set by UNESCO as International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition.  In All Saints we held a service yesterday to mark the day.
For me the service quickly developed into not only a remembering of the 10’s of millions who were transported from Africa to the Americas for over 3 centuries, but also for the estimated 25 million who are still in enslaved today.  I was struck how history was repeating itself, as again we benefit on the back of those who are debt bonded, working in sweatshops, or completing dangerous tasks without our health and safety regimes.  Our disposable society is fueled by the sweat, hunger, desperation, short life span, and horrific conditions that men, women and children work in so that we can have a t-shirt for a season, have a new smart phone every year, have real wood furniture, or cheap coffee, tea and chocolate.  We demand low prices without a second thought to the true cost of what we consume.  Time and time again I found that stories from centuries ago were reminding me of what was going on in the Mediterranean today.  Vessels overfilled, with no concern about the safety of the human cargo only about the larger bank balance which more people bring.  I didn’t draw these parallels during the service however someone else also saw them and commented afterwards, along with another comment about the current milk price debate, which while isn’t slavery is indicative of the demands that society and big business put on those who produce our goods.
I was struck about how quiet the media, even social media, was about this international day, this is big stuff, stuff which churches should be engaging with.  We should be urging our congregations to think not just once before they purchase something but two, three, four times.  Where has it come from, who made it, who made the component parts, did they work in a safe environment, did they get paid, do they have the freedom to leave that employment should they wish?
I like my gadgets, I will be thinking very carefully about the replacement of them when I am next tempted.  I have never been an Apple devotee, but after what I have discovered about one of their main suppliers Foxconn, I will never buy one of their products again.  I will be doing more research into just where my shoes, clothes and household furnishings are made, and if I either can’t find out or don’t like the answers I find I will be buying elsewhere.  Until we, the consumer, change people will continue to suffer for our pleasure.  Ignorance might be our bliss, but it is despair to those at the other end of the product chain.
Several people commented to me afterwards about how challenging they had found the service – the outline of which is below should you be interested.  Members of the congregation had the opportunity to destroy a paper chain symbolically tearing it apart and writing prayers on the broken links.  One to the things I decided to do was use the Easter Eucharistic Prayer, it’s imagery of the breaking of bonds, the setting free, and new life echoed with the theme of the service.  If you wish you can listen to the sermon I preached over on All Saints website, here.



Opening Sentence

The Lord sets the prisoners free, the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.   Psalm 146

Welcome and Peace

As children of God freed by the promised revealed through Jesus Christ our Lord, living in and by God’s grace and mercy; We meet in Christ’s name.
Let us share His peace.

Opening Hymn

Confession and Absolution with Thanksgiving

So much of our standard of living lies on the foundations of a system of slavery. A system that held human life cheap destroyed families and communities, transported human beings as cargo and condemned millions to a shortened life of hopeless misery.

Lord have mercy.

Our ancestors accepted this system and for centuries used religion to justify the enslaving of others. Our own standard of living still rests on the slavery to debt endured by so many in our world. Poor people denied medical, educational and social facilities in order that their governments can make repayments to the rich in the world who take such things for granted. Our cheap goods rely all too often on women and children enslaved on farms, in factories or labour camps. We close our eyes to women and children ripped from them home to become part of the international sex trade.

Christ have mercy.

We forget Christ’s plea that what we do, or allow to be done to one of the least of God’s children, we do to Christ himself.

Lord have mercy.

Let us therefore come before God with contrite hearts, for all the times our words, our actions, our choices have continued to keep others bound in slavery.


God our Father, we confess to you and to our fellow members in the Body of Christ that we have sinned in thought, word and deed, and in what we have failed to do.  We are truly sorry.  Forgive us our sins, and deliver us from the power of evil, for the sake of your Son who died for us, Jesus Christ our Lord.

God, who is both power and love, forgive us and free us from our sins, heal and strengthen us by his Spirit, and raise us to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen.

We give thanks for the pioneers who first led the struggle against slavery. Granville Sharp who studied law to rescue slave in England through the courts, Thomas Clarkson who collected evidence on the slave trade in the pubs of Bristol and Liverpool, and William Dickson who persuaded people in Scotland to petition Parliament for the abolition of the slave trade.

Thanks be to God.

We give thanks for the courage of countless slaves who resisted the system. Olaudah Equinano, Ottahah Cugoano and Ignatio Sancho who had experienced the slave trade and tirelessly campaigned against it, and women such a Mary Prince in the West Indies and Sojourner Truth in the United States who wrote and spoke for the destruction of the slave system.

Thanks be to God.

We give thanks for the faith of those who saw the total inconsistency between Christianity and slavery and spoke out boldly. John Wesley in England, Andrew Thomson in Scotland, and Anthony Benezet and the Quakers in America.

Thanks be to God.

We give thanks for all who today risk their lives to seek the truth and expose the reality of modern day slavery and people trafficking. Investigative journalists, welfare officers and, individuals and organisations such as Amnesty International, Anti-Slavery International and Free the Slaves, who continue raise awareness and work for each individual to have a life free from the chains of imposed servitude to another.

Thanks be to God. Amen.


Collect for Justice

Eternal God, in whose perfect realm no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, and no strength known but the strength of love: so guide and inspire the work of those who seek your kingdom that all your people may find their security in that love which casts out fear and that freedom which instils your peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Old Testament Reading – Ecclesiasticus 7:16-21

Epistle Reading – 1 Peter 2:11-21

Gradual Canticle the Benedictus

Gospel Reading Luke 4:14-21


Statement of faith

We believe in one God.
We believe.
We believe in the Creator who made all people equal.
We believe
We believe in the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who came to bring freedom for all people throughout all ages and in all places.
We believe
We believe in the Comforter, who still today breaks bonds that seek to bind people.
We believe.
We believe that God wants all people to know the freedom of the peace which passes all understanding.
We believe in one God who brings freedom and peace to us and to the world. Amen.


Offertory Hymn


Eucharistic Prayer

Breaking of The Bread

Lord’s Prayer

Communion Song

Invitation to Communion


Post Communion Prayer

Blessed God, help us, whom you have fed and satisfied in this Eucharist, to hunger and thirst for righteousness; help us, who here have rejoiced and been glad, to stand with those who are persecuted and enslaved; help us, who here have glimpsed the life of heaven, to strive for the cause of right and for the freedom of all people through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns, now and for ever. Amen.


May God who freed the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, keep you safe.
May Jesus who came to set the prisoner free, renew your hope.
May the Holy Spirit whose breath and power can not be bound but freely blows throughout the world, refresh your soul.
And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be with you this day and for ever more. Amen.

Final Hymn

Sending Out




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