Bishop puts pen to paper

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ONE BOOK that should be a must read for Christians this summer is From Top Mountain the autobiography from Bishop Joe Aldred, one of Britain’s most influential black church leaders.

The autobiography chronicles Bishop Aldred’s life growing up in rural Jamaica, his immigration to England to join his mother and siblings in West Midlands, his feelings about the black church and the lessons learned and his spiritual and professional aspirations. It also features his hopes for the future.

It must firstly be said that for someone who came to the UK at the age 15 – too old to continue formal education – this ordained minister, ecumenist, broadcaster, PhD graduate and author of eight books has not done too badly.

Bishop Aldred, who has been married to Novlette for 41 years, has three daughters and four grandchildren, writes openly and honestly in From Top Mountain.

It features stories about Bishop Aldred’s early life in Jamaica. His tales include accidently killing the family donkey and putting the ashes in his brothers fried dumplings when he ran out of flour!

Bishop Aldred also writes candidly about his relationship with his church denomination, the Church of God of Prophecy.

LIFE STORY: Bishop Joe Aldred’s

He said: “Not that I have left my church, but theologically, we have grown apart so there’s a bit of an uneasy tension between me and my own sense of what I believe and practise, as against what my church has taught and still teaches.”

You do get the impression that the respected Bishop has a love hate relationship with the black Pentecostal church.

“I think so much of what we preach and teach is theologically and biblically inadequate. If you are going to grow spiritually and put deep roots down you need healthy soil in which to grow.

“Theologically I don’t think most of our black church contexts provide that healthy theological space, which is why so many of the middle class professional black people wander into other spaces where they find more fertile theological ground.”

Despite his misgivings, Bishop Aldred has a great love for black churches and their pioneers, young adults who came to the UK in the 1940s, 50s and 60s and planted churches, despite the difficulties which are now the leading institutions within Britain’s black community and courted by mainstream society and even government.


He added: “These churches have withstood the hostile environments and have grown to become the key space for black people organised in this country.

“We can’t underplay that. People say we (the church) are not political enough but we didn’t grow out of that political setting of the black churches in the US, we grew out of a different place, but have provided a very good space for people like me to grow up. It provides a place where being black is not exceptional.”

His views on racism are interesting. “We must see it as a historic fixture in Western society”, he says.

“That’s where I’d start. We must stop being surprised by it but be aware of it and push on from there.

“You live your life in a very realistic way of understanding the context you’re in.

The challenge I find is that we don’t know where we are or have some dreamy unrealistic understanding of where we are.”

And he admits that some of his key opportunities have been given to him from white people.

“It’s about negotiating the space, recognising it is full of sharks but there are a few dolphins around.”

There’s no doubt that Bishop Aldred has had an interesting life, evidenced by his achievements and the wide range of work he does, and the projects he’s been involved in, which include helping to produce Britain’s first ever black political manifesto.

It is also evident he’s a man looking to the future.

He hopes that people will be inspired by his story, and praying that should God spare his life in years to come there will be more literary delights to come.

Author: Rykesha,

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