Rev Rose Josephine Hudson-Wilkin

Gentle, spiritual and fascinating can easily describes The Church of England’s Reverend Prebendary Rose Hudson-Wilkin.

Rev. Hudson-Wilkin is the first Black woman to serve as chaplain to John Bercow, The Speaker in the British House of Commons and 79th Chaplain. In 2007 she was appointed as a Chaplain to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Furthermore, she was the first woman and person of color to run her parish in Northeast London.

Her majesty has several chaplains. Some are on site all the time. The rest take turns giving service in her private chapels.

Rev. Hudson-Wilkins performs weekly services for Parliamentarians including their weddings and baptisms. She is always available to them.

Having such contacts give her unimpeded access to policy makers thus allowing an advocate for the underserved. She reveals the many years of pastoral ministry in challenging communities have made her aware of their needs.

Her views don’t easily fit into left-right boxes of church or political ideology. It’s often said that faith and politics don’t mix. Rev. Hudson-Wilkin response is “politics is about life and the reading of the gospel is about peoples’ lives.”

“I’m always keen to reflect to Parliament members about the impact of policies on ordinary people,” she said. Many of these members have constituents that are not poor.

Rev. Hudson-Wilkin says it is her responsibility. “Faith ought to be in the public square and I believe passionately that faith is more than a garment you put on and take off like a coat.”

She adds, “it’s who we are and I want to encourage members of Parliament to express their faith.”

There were those who were skeptical of Bercow for appointing a Black woman as chaplain. Ninety-seven people applied ultimately Rev. Hudson-Wilkin was chosen.

Dorothy McLeod, President Jamaican Cultural Alliance, was responsible for inviting Rev. Hudson Wilkin to speak at their 17th annual Tea Party. “I’m impressed with her simplicity and calmness. There is an aura of peace about her. As a Jamaican she give me a sense of pride.”

Born and raised in Jamaica she made the move to the United Kingdom in 1985 and trained as a lay evangelist. She was an ordained deacon in 1991 and ordained to the priesthood in 1994 when women were first allowed to be priests.

She attributes inspiration and the obvious adoration of theology to the older women, the Sunday school teachers, lay ministers and teachers in her Jamaican community.

Obviously these were special memories because she began to sing, “Don’t Try to Tell Me,” afterwards she broke into a joyous laugh.

However when asked to explain if racism exists within society then it must exists in the church, Rev. Hudson-Wilkin demurs: “It ought not to be there. But I’m always optimistic. Racism is evil. Racism is saying God didn’t know what he was doing when he created me in his own image.”

She adds the church is supposed to be a part of a new creation. However, not many are ready to except the expanded role of women or ethnic minorities.

Rev. Hudson-Wilkin acknowledges Black people must not forget about God after achieving a certain status. “We owe it to our children’s generation to be faithful to the gospel. I want to encourage, in particular, Black people of faith not to forget where we have come from and what God has done for us. I worry about Black people in England and the States who feel they have arrived.”

She warns Blacks have a responsibility to challenge racism in the United States and Great Britain.

Conversely she is troubled by Black on Black crimes. “We are not holding those criminals as accountable as unwarranted police shootings. This is unacceptable.”

“There is a level of self-enslavement within the Black community. I would like to see us remove these shackles and believe in ourselves.  Families are important, we have to continue to teach the good values.”