Newly ordained Shahriar Ashrafkorasani and Wilson Chowdhry
Last Saturday I was pleasantly surprised to find two Pakistani Christians being ordained within the Church of England at Blackburn Cathedral.
My reason for the visit to the north of England was to meet my friend Shahriar Ashrafkorasani a convert from Islam who graduated from Wycliffe College at Oxford University and was also ordained at Saturday’s ceremony. He will soon be taking up a curacy in Preston.
The ceremony was presided over by the Bishop of Blackburn, Julian Henderson and Rev’d Dr Rosalyn Murphy of St Thomas Church in Blackpool led the sermon.
Twelve people were ordained at the service and I won’t name them all but for me the most remarkable aspect of the service was the huge diversity on display in the main cathedral hall. it was clear for anyone who entered the building that God’s word had reached all nations.
“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15
When I read the programme I was even more gobsmacked to see that two of the ordinates were Pakistani Christians one named Munawar Din and the other
Victor Sohail. This would explain why behind me I was surrounded by so many Pakistani Christians.
Better still was the fact that the cathedral was packed to the rafters. The building had over 500 people inside most of whom like myself had been invited on the invitation of the ordinands.
It was uplifting to be part of such a large important gathering of Christians. Even more so when I
realised the hope this must bring to the church! To see three ethnic minority Christians (especially one who converted out of Islam) sent out into the North of England where huge ethnic minority communities are needing the Word of God was an exciting moment. I mean no disrespect to any of the other newly ordained clergy, but in my work I see how many find it difficult to share the word of God to a person whose culture and faith they
have little understanding of.
Pakistani’s make up the second largest ethnic minority population in the UK at around 1.17 Million and Britain has the largest overseas Pakistani community in the world. Moreover the largest number of Pakistanis in the UK will be in the North and the Midlands. British Iranians have grown to around 86,000 according to Census estimates for 2015. Many Iranians are finding Christ several cities in the North have large communities.
As I looked at the incoming church leaders of the future it felt to me like that a new balance was being set. One that enabled the church to hold a new vision that encompasses the needs of today. In Britain we have a very cosmopolitan society with great diversity and though the Anglican church has been focused on interfaith harmony, as a believer I have always held that our first and greatest commission is to share the Gospel. Yes
of course we are called to love our neighbour as ourselves but churches have to restore their passion for evangelism. Our love for our neighbour should be so strong that we do not want to simply see them safe and secure in this world, but for them to attain the golden era that is on offer for them in heaven.
I hope that the fact that one quarter of the ordinands hailed from ethnic minorities, suggests progress is being made in the Anglican Church. Knowing Shahriar I expect a lot from him – a man who escaped Islam and can use his experiences to bring others to Christ. I pray that others that have been ordained share a similar vision and together these new ministers and those before and after them can revive a church that once was a mighty force for
At the end of the service I met with visitors from the Pakistani Christian community some of who knew of the BPCA and others that were surprised but pleased to know of our existence. With permission I noted emails of new supporters and added several of them onto our regular distribution.
Further images and biographies of the minority ordinands can be viewed below:
Wilson Chowdhry with Bishop of Blackburn Julian Henderson
Bishop Nicholas Thomas Wright a Leading New Testament Scholar with Wilson Chowdhry
A packed Cathedral