Revival for Justice

Some years ago on a trip to the U.K., I walked through the historic Holy Trinity Church on Clapham Common in South London. This Anglican parish was the home church to William Wilberforce, the abolitionist parliamentarian who wrote Britain's anti-slave-trade legislation. Wilberforce and a group of Christian fellow parliamentarians and lay people known as "the Saints" were behind many social reforms that swept England in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The current vicar was very proud to show me around. On the wall were pictures of these typically English-looking gentlemen who helped to turn their country upside down.

Finally, the vicar pointed to an old, well-worn table. "This is the table upon which William Wilberforce wrote the antislavery act," he said proudly. "We now use this table every Sunday for communion." I was struck—here, in dramatic liturgical symbol, the secular and the sacred are brought together with powerful historical force. How did we ever separate them? What became of religion that believed its duty was to change its society on behalf of justice?

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Sojourners Magazine March 2007
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