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House of Commons appoints first black female Chaplain

Known for anti-racism activism

The Rev Rose Hudson Wilkin has made history after being appointed the first black Vicar of Westminster. A person of huge integrity and compassion, she has a distinguished record of working with diverse communities. Previous to her celebrated appointment she was destined to become one of the first black women Bishop’s appointed by the Church of England. Remarkably, the appointment has attracted some controversy.

House of Commons speaker, John Bercow resisted attempts to block Hudson-Wilkin’s appointment to the post of Chaplin for the House of Commons. The Speaker faced stiff resistance from the Dean of Westminster whose preferred candidate for the prestigious post was Canon Andrew Tremlett.

A source close to the Speaker said: ‘He did not want yet another predictable, middle-aged white man, who is like a mini Archbishop of Canterbury.

‘MPs need someone they can talk to, not someone who can quote theological texts to them.’

The Jamaican born Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin is said to be delighted with her new appointment. However, in an unprecedented break from tradition the additional post of Rector of St Margret’s (the Parliamentary church for MPs) in Westminster Abbey will be removed.

The Parliamentary church is controlled by the Dean of Westminster, and as a consequence of his refusal to endorse Hudson-Wilkin she will be denied the grace-and favor Westminster apartment and the £20,000 a year stipend that is attached to the latter post. He will now appoint Canon Tremlett to the post of Rector of St Margret’s.

As a black woman ordained in 1994, the Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin has acutely experienced the gender and racial inequality that remains in the Church. Hudson-Wilkin, whose parish takes in a “tough patch” of East London, has gently persevered to become a rising star. She was made the first black chaplain to the Queen in 2008. The barriers around race and gender that she has overcome on her personal journey give her an informed yet optimistic outlook on life.

Brought up in Jamaica, Hudson-Wilkin sensed a clear calling to God at 14. Her local parish church backed her all the way, she says, sending her off, aged 18, to train for the Church Army in England in 1979 with “a sense of pride”.

In the 1980s she worked briefly alongside the now Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, when he was vicar at a church in Tulse Hill, South London. On April 20, 1998 Hudson-Wilkin became priest at Holy Trinity, Dalston, and All Saints, Haggerston, both in Hackney.

Speaking to the Times she said,

“Some members struggled with me. They had been told that no priest worth anything would want to come to Haggerston. On top of that I’m a woman and black.”

She is a long-standing anti-racism campaigner who called on the Church of England to apologise for its role in slavery, and supports the arguments of the gay rights movement in the Church.

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