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February 4, 2012


February 4, 2012

I report on the impact of an engagement with J. Deotis Roberts at the other side of the Atlantic. I had the opportunity to host J Deotis Roberts in London in the summer of 1994, by kind co-operation of the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies. This was on the occasion of his doctoral award by the University of Edinburgh, the first of its kind by the University to an African American. We had a whole day session with him and his team at the premises of the United Reform Church, Barking Road, London E13. The participants in the London event were 42. They included my co-learners from the Institute which I direct (then Institute for Community and Development Studies), some members of the African Caribbean Evangelical Alliance, the director and other members of the Management of the Newham Community Renewal Programme, as well as some emerging urban ministry leaders from other cities/towns in the UK. Deotis inspirational engagement guided some of the participants who had Caribbean roots to return to the Caribbean to invest their lives and ministries to co-ordinate urban ministry in response to life struggles in the cities in the islands. He encouraged the participants to capture Black Theology as classical biblical theology that sings out both the deeper bellies and the profound heights of the biblical faith (and not as a theology at the fringes). He introduced how he came to write on the "Prophethood of Black Believers" and remarked on future references to the themes in his book. Seventeen (17) years afterwards (summer 2011), London burns (by riots) from a start-point of an urban black experience. And one year from this episode (lesson), the good news is that the very poor borough of London where Deotis engaged us (the London borough of Newham, at summer 2012) becomes the main centre of the Olympic Games where the UK seeks to showcase the best of its cultural richness to the world. Some deep tracks of history live after J. Deotis Roberts, and his works and references are worth millions for urban ministry practitioners, research students, and posterity. The next chapter could be te "prophethood of J. Deotis Roberts". Written by Bishop Henry (bishophenry@hotmail.com)

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