Images of Fatherhood
A service exploring fatherhood and God as Father, with Ben Lindsay, Guvna B and Lord Hastings on Father's Day
Ben Lindsay, Guvna B and Lord Hastings explore what it means to be a ‘father’ and share their experience of fatherhood. Although the biblical language of God as Father can be difficult for some, the idea it presents of a God with an unconditional love for all his children is a powerful one. How do we raise children in light of the murder of George Floyd in America and the subsequent protests and discussions about racism? Ben Lindsay, a Pastor in London, who also runs a charity which works to prevent knife crime will lead the service, and will lead a dialogue around what fatherhood is and hopes for the next generation, especially around fighting against injustice and racism . Guvna B, an award winning grime artist will reflect on losing his father two years ago and becoming a father himself, and Lord Hastings will share his experience of becoming a father figure to young men in prison through his prison ministry.
Reading: Luke 15: 11-23 (The Prodigal Son). Producer: Miriam Williamson
Great is Your Faithfulness – recorded by Marie Bashiru & Terry Tetteh-Martey
We Shall Overcome - London Community Gospel Choir
Good Good Father – Housefires
Revelation 19:1 - Sunday Service Choir
Take My Hand Precious Lord –recorded by Marie Bashiru & Terry Tetteh-Martey
Cast Your Cares - Guvna B
How Great Thou Art - recorded by Ashtyn Michael & Marie Bashiru
Closing music - Revelation 19:1 - Sunday Service Choir
Sunday Worship - Images of Fatherhood
Perhaps today you want to honour a father figure in your life, a man or woman, who played a significant role in your upbringing in the absence of your biological father. Maybe your father was there in your life but was not fully present. Life isn’t straight forward and fathers, like all human beings, are complex. Although the language of God as father can be difficult for some, the qualities modelled for us in the Bible – of unconditional love, compassion, and forgiveness – are powerful. And the Father’s love is something we all need, especially at the moment when there’s so much uncertainty and pain in the world. Great is thy faithfulness, recorded for us by Marie Bashiru
MUSIC – Great is thy faithfulness – recorded by Marie Bashiru & Terry Tetteh-Martey
Prayer & explain theme a bit more -Ben In the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, the protests that followed and the discussions that are continuing about racism, many of us are reflecting on how we bring up children in this context. In the words of Angela Davis, how do we go from “non-racist to anti-racist?” Something unprecedented is happening in our society. Disbelief and anger have turned into a demand for racial equality and reform across the board in a way I have seen before. From the police to the education system and beyond, there is now (more than ever) a demand to reimagine our society through a racial justice lens. PrayerHeavenly Father, thank you that throughout scripture you have shown that you are God of justice. you have always raised people up to fight against injustice. Please send your strength, endurance and encouragement for anyone who has suffered the indignity and pain of racism. I also thank you for the examples of people in scripture – like Esther - who stood up for and alongside those being oppressed. Please raise more Esthers as we strive to dismantle racist structures globally and here in the UK. Amen
MUSIC – We shall overcome - London Community Gospel Choir CD Glorious
Ben Lindsay We shall overcome someday – sung for us there by the London Community Gospel Choir. In striving for freedom and equality it’s important for us all to have good examples of people who are fighting for justice. Lord Hastings and Guvna B are two people I have huge respect for. I’ve got to know Lord Hastings over the past couple of years as someone with a huge heart, particularly for young black men in the criminal justice system and helping them to lead rehabilitated lives. Guvna B is in my opinion - one of the best UK rappers of his generation. His passion to see young people flourish and to be inspired by positive music is refreshing and needed. Their stories connect with me, as someone who has worked in the youth sector for 20 years and in 2019 launched Power The Fight, a charity that empowers communities to end youth violence. With our shared interests, I wanted to have a conversation across our generations about fatherhood.
Lord Hasting shares now what fatherhood means to him, followed by Guvna B.
Lord Hastings For many of us we would begin with thinking, did we have a father present in our own lives, and for me I did have my father present in my life, but he father died when I was 16 in a car crash in Jamaica. My memories of him are hugely significant. He struggled all his life with epilepsy and even with his severe disability, his persistence in making sure we were well looked after, supported and educated was immense. And until I left home at 14 to go to boarding school in England, and whenever I would go back to Jamaica, without fail my father would read us Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’ every Sunday. The poem concludes if you fulfil all these wonderful things, then ‘You’ll be a man someday my son.’ I could understand my father wanted to give us something beautiful, gem like, so I saw a man struggling with himself but profoundly giving to us and that was a wonderful example.
Guvna BI’ve recently become a father, my son is 8 months old, and before I had him fatherhood to me meant safety, because my dad made me feel very safe. He came to London from Ghana, had nothing and worked his way up from there, but he was very much in survival mode. But I now strongly feel there’s a second part of fatherhood which is deep friendship, and something that I aspire to have with my son, I think my dad was a great guy but he didn’t do that well with the friendship side of our relationship.. But to be fair I do understand that he didn’t really have the time to delve into my feelings because he was busy just trying to make rent each month. I’ve had the safety side of it modelled to an excellent level and I’m learning the deep friendship side of it now.
MUSIC –Good Good Father – Housefires CD Housefires II
Ben Lindsay Fatherhood for me isn’t just about biological fathers; it’s about the people you’re fortunate to have around you. My parents divorced when I was 7 and I would say my dad did the best he could to be present in my life, but I’ve been fortunate not just to have him, I’ve had uncles and friends who have been father figures in my life. As I became a Christian in my early 20’s there were some good people around me. Like other people, coming into Christianity, the idea of the father’s love took me a long time to embrace. We have this all loving, compassionate God, a perfect father unlike anything we’ve experienced on earth. So how can we relate to Our Father in Heaven? Guvna B and Lord Hastings again…
Guvna B We have this father who’s nothing like our fathers on earth – but with that being said, some of the characteristics I’ve picked up from my dad and now being a dad shine a light on how much God loves me. When my father passed away a few years ago, I had no doubt in my mind he had given me everything he could, loved me as much as he could, sacrificed what he could, and it reminded me of the ultimate sacrifice, the fact that God gave his only son for our sins. And now when I look at my son, I think whatever you do – I will love you unconditionally. A father in heaven which trumps any love here on earth, the magnitude of it is incredible and is a great comfort to me.
God as our father gives us hope and confidence, even in turmoil, the persistence of his strength, as father the sincerity of his love for us was so immense that he sent his son so we might have life. So it’s the joy of seeing a role model father who battled everything to give us the basics, I’ve seen how God in his generosity gave us everything – that is the kind of father I can sit and say holy is your name your kingdom come your will be done.
MUSIC - Revelation 19:1 Sunday Service ChoirCD Jesus Is Born
Reading - Rebekah Walker
Luke 15: 11-24 (The Prodigal Son) 11 Jesus said: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need..17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Reflection – Ben Lindsay As a young Christian, I struggled with the concept of our heavenly Father – I imagined a strict, dictator type God who was continually disappointed with the bad decisions I made.Yet the story of the prodigal son blows that misconception out of the water. We see a father who first gives his son freedom to choose - even though the father could anticipate that giving the younger son his inheritance early would be detrimental. We see that the father spots his son from a long way off, breaks with all cultural norms, runs to meet his son, throws his arms around him and kisses him. Whatever the youngest son’s past misdemeanours, the father does not treat him with contempt but gives a lavish welcome with gifts and extreme warmth. The rebellion is forgotten and the joy of the Father who thought his son was lost is uncontainable because now he is found.
Sometimes I find myself just sitting there, watching my children play. I’m mesmerised by the joy, freedom and delight they have. Without them doing anything significant – I’m happy. This feeling I have for my children is what our Father in heaven has for us when the writer in Zephaniah says “He will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you with his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Like the parable of the Prodigal Son, without us doing anything special – He delights over us. This is the love that Jesus calls us into – to share in the intimacy of the Son and the Father.
In this time of increased racial tension in the US and UK, where there is rightly anger at black people dying in police custody, this parable is a timely reminder that we have a Father in heaven who “shows no partiality” and loves unconditionally no matter who we are, or what we’ve done.
One of the reasons I care so much about the battle against racial injustice is because of my mother. From an early age I was taught about the racial discrimination black South Africans endured during Apartheid. We went on marches together and always had real and honest discussions about the racial atrocities happening at that time. The desire and love to “seek justice” and to “correct oppression” as it says in Isaiah was passed on to me from her. This love and direction shows what we put into our children will manifest into something great. We’ll hear from Lord Hastings in a moment, after our next hymn – Martin Luther King’s favourite - Take My Hand Precious Lord, sung by Marie Bashiru.
MUSIC – Take My Hand Precious Lord –recorded by Marie Bashiru & Terry Tetteh-Martey
Reflection from Lord Hastings We’re having this Father’s Day during a period of great fear and tragic violence. I’m old enough to remember the extreme race riots in the USA in the 1960s and saw Martin Luther King make his famous ‘I have a dream speech ‘ and then subsequently tragically be assassinated.
History shows that no matter how legitimate the cause and how orderly the protest, there will always be extreme haters who destroy life and seek to split communities. As a father Martin Luther king specifically said that central to his dream was his hope that his four children would not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. This points us in a different direction. As a father he knew that it’s never violence that ends a fight for justice but it is the relentless pursuit of honour and transformation justice and freedom and dignity.
A father should always want justice, freedom and dignity for his children. A father longs for only the best.
But what happens when our children fail their own best and sometimes ours! One dimension of my life that I truly greatly love is the huge privilege of visiting and knowing and serving a large community of prisoners doing extended sentences usually for violent crimes and often for casualties. A life lost through violence is a total tragedy. But so too would be the loss of a man’s potential to reform and to rebuild. I go each time with a group of my wider family of brothers to shed hope and light into these men’s minds. Afterall, irrespective of their crimes and their past, they are still made in the image of God and with all the potential to know God as father and for most, the deep longing to know a human father too. We write to each other a lot –I get extensive letters – one even at 130 pages – where all life is revealed. It’s a beautiful honour to father these men inside and to build their hope for one day when they can return to their duty as fathers and husbands and friends and sons.
God treats us just the same. And I’ve chosen to build a family by adopting children. So many people say – How can you love a child who is not your own? Well – all children are God’s and He loves equally and without discrimination. In the book of Ephesians chapter 1 verses 5 and 6 it says so it was all in his perfect plan to adopt us as his delightful children, through our union with Jesus the anointed one. So that his tremendous love that cascades over us would glorify his grace. For the same love he has for his beloved one Jesus he has for us.
How wonderful this is – how liberating and how purposeful.
To be father is a job and a joy. In equal measure!!
MUSIC – Cast Your Cares - Guvna BCD Hands are Made for Working
Reflection from Guvna B
That was my song Cast your Cares In my house it was my mum who ruled the roost. Dad was happy to sit back and take whatever came his way. His motto should have been, ‘anything for an easy life’. Don’t get me wrong this was him being laid back not lazy. Every morning at 5.30am he would be up brushing his teeth to go off to work.
After my dad died, I went to Accra, Ghana with a group of close friends to celebrate my 30th Birthday. I had been a few times before but never with any attempt at imagining the city through the eyes of my dad. I suppose you could call it a ‘journey of exploration’. During my trip, I learned that growing up, my dad was streetwise and assured. Never one to draw attention to himself, understated but coolly confident. I liked hearing these things about my dad because it confirmed how I thought about him too.
Turning up for the first time in London, I expect he lost some of his assuredness as it must have been a massive culture shock. I wonder if he used to feel like an imposter, like he shouldn’t be here and didn’t fit in. That would go some way towards explaining his passive nature; don’t ruffle feathers, keep the peace and don’t give anyone any reason to tell you to go back to your own country. Live and let live and most importantly, laugh. Or maybe, those features were just what made my dad who he was; easy going and happy go lucky.
Children never really value their parents, not until they have children of their own and come to understand how hard it is to be a parent or, in my case, until one of their parents dies and they become aware of the enormous hole created in their lives.
Those little things in life…. They’re not little.
For example, something my dad always did for me, without fail, was to drive me places. As I grew older and my career took off, he drove me to all my gigs and when I was touring, it was my dad who drove me to and from the airport before I could afford airport parking! I really miss not sitting next to my dad in the car. We never said much: but we sat in comfortable silence. Beside my dad, I always felt secure. I knew that he had my back.
Fatherhood to me means having someone in the driving seat. Someone who makes you feel secure. My Dad did that for me. God does that for me. And I hope I can do that for my son.
I’ll make sure he knows he’s standing on the shoulders of giants like my own father and that many sacrifices were made for the freedom he has today. I’ll be intentional about having difficult conversations around faith and race with Him so he is well equipped to continue the journey of being proud of who he is, and fighting for even more freedom for his generation. I truly believe life and death is in the power of the tongue and another part of what I’m going to teach him is just to embrace the fact that he’s black and powerful and wonderfully created and can have huge impact in this world.
Our prayers will now be led by Selina Stone, Teacher and Lecturer in Political Theology
PrayersGod of love,
On this Father’s day we come to you as your children. While we are in many ways different, often divided, and sometimes filled with hate – in this moment, we remember that we are all siblings, born of your love and mercy.
We thank you for the love you offer to all of creation, for your spirit which moves throughout the earth, to all people and to all places. We thank you for the compassion and delight with which you look upon each one of us, and particularly those who suffer in poverty and oppression.
We thank you for all of those who have shown us your fatherly love; for fathers by birth or loving adoption, who have given us all that they could. We offer you thanks for uncles, mentors, grandfathers and friends who have cared for us, loved us and supported us. We pray for your blessing on them this day.
We remember all of those who are in pain today. We pray for those who have lost good fathers and miss their presence. We especially remember those who have lost loved ones to Covid-19 and all those who live with the rawness of grief. Be close to them in the joy and tears of good memories.
We ask you to comfort those who have never known the love of a good father, that you will heal the broken hearted on this day, and bring to them a special blessing. We thank you for those who strive to be the father they never had, that you would renew their strength and extend your compassion to them.
In a world where both fathers and children suffer violence, we pray for justice and shalom. We remember the fathers whose lives have been stolen by war and conflict, and we pray for their children. We ask for the strength to fight for justice, and the comfort which comes with the truth.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Ben As we bring this service to a close we’ll join together in the words of the Lord’s Prayer…Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.Give us today our daily bread.Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yoursnow and for ever. Amen.How great thou art recorded for us by Ashtyn Michael and Marie Bashiru
MUSIC – How Great Thou Art recorded by Ashtyn Michael & Marie BashiruAs fathers, we commit ourselves to the ‘job and the joy’ of parenting. We are only human, we make mistakes, but we are not alone. We have a Heavenly Father full of love, and as we abide in Him, we too can overflow with warmth and compassion to those around us. Abba Father bless all us all today with the assurance of your love. In Jesus name, Amen
Closing music - Revelation 19:1 Sunday Service Choir
- Sun 21 Jun 2020 08:10