Equipping for Equality

17 May 2024

Stuart Watkin, Learning and Development Officer, reflects on the upcoming ‘Equipping for Equality’ events.

Becoming a just community, where everyone is treated with dignity, that stands in solidarity with those who are marginalised, is about much more than mandatory training. It requires a change in our culture and attitudes.

The words of the Justice, Dignity and Solidarity “Why does it matter?” document still resonate:

“No one ‘like me’ was deemed suitable”

“I’ve been told, ‘By having you on this committee, we can tick the inclusivity box’”

“There is always that sideways glance, that extra eye roving. If I ever offer anything, there is always a downward glance, an intake of breath, a benign smile, a lip service tolerance of ‘allowing’ me to speak, but my words are not heard”

Yet when we pay attention to one another and commit to change together, the strategy is already bearing fruit:

“Simple steps can make a big difference”

“They’ve all put themselves out so that I can take part and I appreciate that”

“I feel part of a movement that is bravely lifting heads towards God, being given the chance to speak out against injustice and for my words to have been heard and understood. I feel the warmth of hope in reality and not just silently in my heart”

Small steps can lead to big transformations, but they still need to be taken. In a previous job, I had a leader who used to say that “Equality isn’t an extra thing we do, it is everything we do”. They made an excellent point: some colleagues saw our strategy as ‘extra’ work, rather than recognising that it was about developing an attitude that was needed in all areas of our work. However, there were still tasks that had to be done to facilitate that strategy. And so there was some extra work. As the person who had to do those tasks, I wanted to ensure we committed enough resources for them to be done well. Otherwise, the leader’s quote wasn’t an excellent point, it was cover for a lack of genuine commitment.

I am reminded of this when people in the Church claim there just isn’t time to work towards justice and dignity within our church communities. How long must we tolerate injustice and indignity before we make time to do something about them? Yet a change in culture won’t happen by itself: we need to make some commitment of effort and resources.

Equality Impact Assessments shouldn’t involve large amounts of effort or paperwork. Over time, the process will become part of our standard way of thinking. But in the meantime, someone still needs to write them. Using more inclusive language needn’t necessarily require a lot of work. But if we’re going to discuss the Inclusive Language Guide in a meeting, someone needs to read it in advance to facilitate the conversation. These aren’t big things. But they are things. And they needn’t involve extra work for everyone. But someone has to do them. And the better we do them, the less time they’ll take and the more impact they’ll have in transforming the culture of our Church.

The upcoming “Equipping for Equality” events are a chance for anyone passionate about equality; anyone feeling ill-equipped to do the task at hand; anyone feeling isolated, like they’re the only one who cares enough to make an effort; to come together, share with and learn from one another. Workshops will cover some of the practical aspects of the strategy for Justice, Dignity and Solidarity. Fellowship will strengthen our resolve.

After all, this is not just some initiative, dreamt up by someone ‘up there’ in the church hierarchy with too much time on their hands and not enough work to do (yes, I’ve heard that one before as well). This is a core part of our calling to be the Body of Christ. As the “Why does it matter?” document states:

“Should we fail to embrace this pilgrimage, or abandon it because it is too demanding or too difficult, we will have turned our backs on the gospel”

Stuart Watkin

Learning and Development Officer