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Service to Commemorate the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, Westminster Abbey, Tuesday 27 March 2007.

Eleven Scots, church leaders, members of the Scottish Churches Forum, members of the ACTS 2007 working group and staff,  travelled to London for the Westminster Abbey, service to commemorate the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act. The service had been organised by Set All Free a coalition brought together by Churches Together in England of groups and agencies who wished to mark the bicentenary within a Christian ethos. ACTS is a member of the coalition. Scottish Church leaders attending London Service

The service, at which Her Majesty the Queen, the Prime Minister and other political figures were present, contained elements of remembering, reflecting and responding and used extracts from 'The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano', the most well known black abolitionist, one of William Wilberforce's speeches, as well as Scripture and the personal testimony of Cleophas Mally, from Anti-Slavery International about his experience as a child domestic worker in Togo in the 1950s.  In the prayers abolitionists known and unknown, black and white were remembered, as were nations still affected by the consequences of the transatlantic slave trade and people who endure modern forms of slavery.  In his address, the Most Rev. Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, said that people are born for freedom and that we in Britain can only learn to be free by facing the legacy of our past. He felt that the abolitionists could see something of the truth of God and humanity and if that same spirit is alive in people today then we can face the legacy of both physical and spiritual slavery.

Music was an integral and highly symbolic part of the worship with an orchestra playing the music of Le Chevalier de Saint George, an Afro-French composer and abolitionist, an Adventist Choir singing African American Spirituals, two specially commissioned pieces which used texts from the Bible, John Netwon and Equiano and Efiba Arts played West African drums in a deafening rhythm at the close of the service . Perhaps the most moving though was the sounding of the elephant horns from the Quire Screen. These horns were used to warn communities of the coming of a slave raiding party in West Africa.

Within the service, 1807 and 2007 were linked together through word, music, prayer and reflection. For those of us there from Scotland it seemed both a fitting and deeply moving way of commemorating the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act and our commitment to Set All Free.

Rev. Lindsey Sanderson

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